Felipe Massa starts from second on the grid today – on the dirty side of the track.
We had a discussion here earlier this year about the problems drivers have starting from the dirty side at some tracks and Magny-Cours is definitely one of the circuits where it has an effect.
If he does lose out to Fernando Alonso at the start it’s going to be a tough day at the office for Massa.
In last year’s race Lewis Hamilton started second and was easily beaten to the first corner by Massa, who started third. In yesterday’s GP2 feature race Romain Grosjean started second but was staring at the rear wing of Giorgio Pantano, who started third, as they rounded Estoril.
Fernando Alonso starts third today and is expected to be running light. Massa has hinted he is on the heavy side, saying after qualifying that he was happy with his strategy, which is usually a euphamism for “I’m carrying more fuel than my team mate.”
If Massa loses a position to Alonso at the start he can kiss goodbye to his hopes of beating Raikkonen. Raikkonen will surely be able to scamper off into the lead while Massa is stuck behind the Renault.
Overtaking at Magny-Cours is very tough. The Adelaide hairpin usually offers the best chance but aerodynamically sensitive F1 cars often find it too difficult to follow another car closesly through the fast Estoril right-hander that precedes it.
Massa may get a chance to draft back past Alonso on the first lap, but even that may be tough as Alonso’s Renault was within 0.7kph of Massa’s Ferrari on top speed down the straight (and Nelson Piquet Jnr’s matched it).
And Massa will have to exercise caution in a wheel-to-wheel battle as he doesn’t want to risk losing a wing and destroying his race. Alonso, on the other hand, is gunning for glory at Renault’s home track. These two have previous, and it could be an interesting battle between the pair of them.