Will Felipe Massa thrive on the home crowd pressure – or be crushed by it?

Felipe Massa scored a home win at Interlagos in 2006

Felipe Massa scored a home win at Interlagos in 2006

Next weekend Felipe Massa will experience a unique cocktail of pressures very few Formula 1 drivers ever have to face.

Finding yourself in a championship showdown that’s gone down to the final race is one thing – doing it all at your home Grand Prix is quite another.

Home race heroes

Drivers respond to racing in front of their home crowds in different ways.

To some it seems to make no difference to their performance – Michael Schumacher, for example, was no more crushing at Hockenheim or Nurburgring than anywhere else.

Others seem to suffer under the weight of expectation. Rubens Barrichello, particularly in the immediate post-Senna years, is an example. Facing up to the burden of taking over from the much mourned Ayrton Senna in his countrymen’s affections, with neither the machinery nor the experience to do it in the late ’90s, he struggled.

Still others positively thrive on it. The great example is Nigel Mansell, who seemed to find an extra gear whenever he raced at Silverstone. His victory over team mate Nelson Piquet in 1987 is remembered as as one of the great F1 wins, but the magic was there in 1983, 1988 and 1989 as well, and on his last two appearances at the venue in 1991 and 1992, when he obliterated the opposition with a superior car.

Massa’s unique challenge

Felipe Massa surely belongs in this latter category. Whatever misgivings there have been about his abilities up until this year, the Paulista has always delivered at home.

On his second visit to the track as an F1 drivers in 2004 he put his Sauber fourth on the grid – the best starting position he and team mate Giancarlo Fisichella managed in the car all year.

In 2006 – his first visit to the track as a Ferrari driver – he capitalised on on problems for team mate Michael Schumacher to run away with the race. Last year he was on top again, and a second consecutive home victory would have been his, had he not been required to move aside for Kimi Raikkonen, much as Raikkonen did for Massa at Shanghai.

Massa’s good at home, but how good is he under the peculiar pressures of a championship showdown? That’s a situation we’ve never seen him in during his F1 career, and he pre-F1 experience doesn’t offer many useful pointers either.

Perhaps he’s just one of those people who’s at their very best when under peak stress. Or perhaps there’s a tipping point and the demands of performing at home in a championship-decider – the chance to inherit the mantle of Senna – may prove too much.

It’s one more fascinating dimension to this riveting championship showdown.

How do you think Massa will fare in his crucial home race?

Get the latest articles from F1 Fanatic for free via RSS or our email subscription service. Click here for more information.

Advert | Go Ad-free

28 comments on Will Felipe Massa thrive on the home crowd pressure – or be crushed by it?

  1. Brad P said on 24th October 2008, 17:24

    What if Massa takes the win but not the championship? No doubt he’ll still feel like he’s won then championship to a certain extent.

    Hamilton’s pretty much got both hands on the championship, IMO.

  2. I think Massa winning at Interlagos is an inevitability. If anything, the pressure is on Hamilton, because all he’s got to do is not mess up, and he’s never done well in that kind of situation.

  3. George said on 24th October 2008, 17:50

    It’s gonna be a Ferrari 1-2 in Brazil, after that, the championship is Hamilton’s to win or loose.

    I don’t know why but I’ve just got this air of Mansell in ’86 off this championship, maybe it’s the way everyone seems to think it’s a done deal already.

  4. It’s not really Massa’s to win [the championship], but for Hamilton to lose. I don’t think Massa, or even Ferrari as a team, can do much other than approach this as a normal race and try to finish 1-2 – the totals at the end are not really in their hands…or favour.

    There’s slightly less pressure on Hamilton this year as well – one less championship contender out the picture, and he has the experience to learn from.

  5. donwatters said on 24th October 2008, 18:23

    Even the most rabid crowd support cannot make up for what appears to be (China) a clearly inferior car. Big balls and cheering crowds are no match for McLarens current superiority.

  6. Jack (#2) – What do you mean by ‘he’s never done well in that kind of situation.’ What about China just a week ago. All he had to do was not mess up and he did superbly!

  7. Alex-Ctba said on 24th October 2008, 19:49

    In my humble opinion, Lewis Hamilton has got what it takes to win the championship and become the youngest champion in the history of Formula One, right here in Interlagos. But you know, anything can happen, and maybe the final decision will be up to the Gods of Motor Racing. Hopefully they will interfere and help our child prodigy to turn game around. We must not forget that Hamilton won’t be able to use his joker engine and as you know, **** happens ( and it may )

  8. Alex-Ctba said on 24th October 2008, 19:54

    As most of you probably don’t know, the next GP will be happening during one of our national hollidays, 02nd of November, the day of the dead. I’m not sure if you have a similar holliday in England. Funny thing is that it usually rains here on that day, so even if the weather forecast says the opposite, rest assured it will rain, at least a little. Another factor is that the track is located near the Guarapiranga reservoir, and because November is usually really hot here, the waters of the reservoir may facilitate some condensation. So the cards are on the table…

  9. S Hughes said on 24th October 2008, 20:23

    I want Lewis to win more than anything in the world, but I am preparing myself for him not doing it. All it takes is a moment of madness, or a technical failure or another jealous driver bashing into him and taking him out and that’s it! Massa will have his home crowd willing him on and that really counts for something. I will find it very hard to bear if Lewis loses. I have already seen comments on teletext sportchat from British F1 fans saying, “I can’t wait to see Lewis and his dad’s faces when they lose in Brazil. I shall be having a party to celebrate, all welcome”. And this wasn’t a unique comment. With that level of hatred from his own countrymen, I think the gloating and unpleasantness if he loses will be astronomical and horrendous.

  10. Smitty said on 24th October 2008, 20:25

    I think Massa will be very strong at Interlagos and he will take the victory – so that is his role done. Whether he wins the championship or not will depend on whether Hamilton does badly or not.

    So Massa will thrive.

  11. Spencer said on 24th October 2008, 20:47

    How about this for a prediction for you. Kovalainen busts a gut and suddenly finds the race pace that has been missing all season and scores his second win.

    Lewis brings the car home in second place in a uneventful controlled drive.

    Kimi sets the fastest lap of the race in lap 69 and then puts it into the wall the following lap.

    Massa pops up third after having been saved the embarrasment of being let past by Kimi.

    McLaren 1-2 gives the Team 18 points and they take the WCC as they should have last year and Lewis is crowned WDC.

    Two hours later we hear that McLarens fuel is too cool and its all stripped away and gifted back to FIAt.

    I wonder whar odds I’d get at the bookies????? :)

  12. Dan M said on 24th October 2008, 20:50

    I’m worried that if Hamilton wins the title then, that is it, pressure is off, he’s going to run away with many more over his career and it will be another Shu-fest.

    I would like to see Massa dominate more than Hamilton falter, but both will need to happen if the unbelievable is repeat itself.

  13. the limit said on 24th October 2008, 21:33

    Massa will win, Hamilton and Alonso will collide after Lewis gets a poor start from pole.

  14. Gérard said on 24th October 2008, 21:51

    I don´t like Lewis at all, but this year he really deserves the win in spite of his arrogance and endless fuss around him. He´ll get it.

  15. November 2 in Brazil is a day that we dedicated in memory of loved ones who have passed away.

    Funny thing is that it usually rains here on that day

    Yes, traditionally in São Paulo, I don´t know why, there’s always some light rain falling in this day, but I read at the CPTEC/INPE (the best place to know about the weather in Brazil!), that could rain at the qualifying (probabilities of 80% and temperatures variation between 17ºC / 19ºC) and minor chances in the race (40%).

    So the cards are on the table…

    I think that this could affect more Felipe´s main strength, his fasts laps at the qualifying.

    I´m sure that McLaren will have the edge this year at Interlagos and Lewis could even win the race!

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.