April 25, 1981
Williams F1 Team
|Career statistics to end 2013|
Something had to give, and in the end Ferrari’s patience proved finite as they said goodbye to a man who has been a loyal servant of the Scuderia since 2006, winning 11 races in the scarlet cars and so nearly taking the 2008 title.
Felipe’s failure to provide back-up to Fernando Alonso in recent seasons – half the contribution made by a Webber at Red Bull or the two Mercedes men – finally meant Ferrari had to look elsewhere.
Will Massa’s arrival be the catalyst for a Williams revival? Compatriot Rubens Barrichello couldn’t do it for Sir Frank in 2010-11, and at nearly 33 it’s a tall order for Massa as well.
The 2013 season was a case in point: Felipe started brightly enough with fourth place in Melbourne as Alonso got on the podium; he was on the podium himself in Spain in a fine Ferrari 1-3 result.
But the going got tough after that. Massa’s best efforts in the remaining 14 rounds were two more fourth places in Monza and New Delhi; his tally of 112 points put him eighth overall and was, damningly, less than half Alonso’s score for the season.
He has gone five seasons without a pole, and two-and-a-half since his last fastest race lap: can the fire be rekindled?
“An exceptional talent and a real fighter on the race track” is the way Sir Frank sees him, and the release from number two status will certainly be a boost to Massa’s morale.
“I’m glad to be signing with another icon of the sport,” he said when the Williams news broke in mid-November.
“It is also nice to remember that some of the best Brazilian drivers raced for Williams and cemented a strong national link with the team.”
It’s precisely that kind of emotion that may motivate a man who has always, and most engagingly, worn his racing heart on his sleeve.