Massa’s chance to shine at home of Ferrari

2012 Italian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Monza, 2012Ferrari’s hopes of a home victory rest on Felipe Massa’s shoulders after Fernando Alonso hit trouble in qualifying.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, at Monza to watch his team, spelled out the importance of the race for Massa: “Felipe has a huge opportunity to win the race tomorrow, for him, for us, for his future.”

The start

Lewis Hamilton lines up on pole position for the fourth time this year and the second time at Monza. Will this be the year he scores his first win in the Italian Grand Prix?

A lot of that will depend on how well he gets away at the start. Before the Hungarian Grand Prix he revealed concerns about getting the MP4-27 off the line quickly. On that occasion he did it beautifully but at Spa he made a sluggish getaway before being clobbered by Romain Grosjean.

Monza has one of the longest runs to the first corner – 630m from pole position to the apex of the first part of the Rettifilio chicane. That means good starts are highly rewards and poor ones are even more costly.

Last year Fernando Alonso made a peach of a start from fourth on the grid to take the lead at the first corner. He’ll do well to repeat that from tenth on the grid but he sights will be fixed on fifth-placed Sebastian Vettel, having set himself the target of beating his closest championship rival this weekend.

Felipe Massa has made some excellent starts this year. With just the McLarens in front of him, he has a massive opportunity to take the fight to McLaren at the start.

The first corner can be very chaotic as it funnels into a narrow, tight and slow corner. Any drivers who cut the chicane will have to make sure they relinquish any advantage gained.

After the chaos of Spa the drivers should be on their best behaviour and avoid any repeat of last year’s carnage, when Vitantonio Liuzzi arrived at the first corner going backwards on he grass, and took two other cars out of the race.

Strategy

Two stop strategies were the order of the day last year when Pirelli brought the soft and medium tyres. This year, with the medium and hard tyres on offer, one-stop strategies are more likely.

“Degradation is comparatively low, while we have the usual levels of wear on the front-right tyre due to the characteristics of the Parabolica,” explained Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.

“We’ve reduced the tread gauge for the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix this year, which diminishes heat build-up and reduces blistering but accounts for the tyres taking slightly longer to warm up, particularly at Monza where downforce levels are extremely low.

“The benefit of that is improved durability and with only about 0.3 seconds per lap time difference between the two compounds, we could be in line to see quite a variety of different strategies tomorrow with both two stops and perhaps even one stop possible.”

Red Bull had excellent race pace in Spa and that could help Sebastian Vettel make progress from tenth on the grid. In 2010 – when the tyre were very conservative – he postponed his mandatory pit stop until the final lap of the race.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’24.211 1’24.394 (+0.183) 1’24.010 (-0.384)
2 Jenson Button McLaren 1’24.672 1’24.255 (-0.417) 1’24.133 (-0.122)
3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’24.882 1’24.505 (-0.377) 1’24.247 (-0.258)
4 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’25.302 1’24.675 (-0.627) 1’24.540 (-0.135)
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’25.011 1’24.687 (-0.324) 1’24.802 (+0.115)
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’24.689 1’24.515 (-0.174) 1’24.833 (+0.318)
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’25.151 1’24.742 (-0.409) 1’24.855 (+0.113)
8 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’25.317 1’24.683 (-0.634) 1’25.109 (+0.426)
9 Paul di Resta Force India 1’24.875 1’24.345 (-0.530) 1’24.304 (-0.041)
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’24.175 1’24.242 (+0.067) 1’25.678 (+1.436)
11 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’25.556 1’24.809 (-0.747)
12 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’25.300 1’24.901 (-0.399)
13 Bruno Senna Williams 1’25.135 1’25.042 (-0.093)
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’25.728 1’25.312 (-0.416)
15 Jerome D’Ambrosio Lotus 1’25.834 1’25.408 (-0.426)
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’25.649 1’25.441 (-0.208)
17 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’26.382
18 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’26.887
19 Timo Glock Marussia 1’27.039
20 Charles Pic Marussia 1’27.073
21 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’27.441
22 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’25.103 1’24.820 (-0.283)
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’27.629
24 Nico Hulkenberg Force India

Having been quickest in Q1 and Q2 Alonso believes he would have had an “easy” pole position without his problem in Q3. He said he was capable of lapping half a second faster than Hamilton’s pole position time.

Jenson Button said McLaren “didn’t consider” emulating Ferrari’s tactic of having their drivers slipstream each other: “It?s a difficult thing to get right and if you get it wrong you end up being compromised elsewhere around the lap.”

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 27.040 (1) 28.596 (1) 28.158 (3)
Jenson Button 27.045 (2) 28.743 (5) 28.269 (10)
Felipe Massa 27.319 (6) 28.740 (4) 28.142 (2)
Michael Schumacher 27.345 (7) 28.801 (7) 28.303 (12)
Sebastian Vettel 27.527 (13) 28.825 (8) 28.226 (6)
Nico Rosberg 27.293 (4) 28.796 (6) 28.285 (11)
Kimi Raikkonen 27.362 (8) 28.949 (11) 28.312 (13)
Kamui Kobayashi 27.492 (10) 28.936 (10) 28.250 (7)
Paul di Resta 27.251 (3) 28.714 (3) 28.266 (9)
Fernando Alonso 27.317 (5) 28.686 (2) 28.109 (1)
Mark Webber 27.539 (15) 28.862 (9) 28.340 (14)
Sergio Perez 27.538 (14) 29.058 (13) 28.212 (4)
Bruno Senna 27.559 (16) 29.151 (15) 28.262 (8)
Daniel Ricciardo 27.492 (10) 29.372 (17) 28.446 (15)
Jerome D’Ambrosio 27.741 (17) 29.095 (14) 28.516 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne 27.440 (9) 29.315 (16) 28.636 (17)
Heikki Kovalainen 27.814 (18) 29.655 (18) 28.788 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 27.952 (19) 29.871 (21) 28.890 (19)
Timo Glock 28.132 (22) 29.703 (19) 29.204 (21)
Charles Pic 28.093 (20) 29.812 (20) 29.078 (20)
Narain Karthikeyan 28.097 (21) 29.918 (22) 29.358 (23)
Pastor Maldonado 27.522 (12) 28.990 (12) 28.225 (5)
Pedro de la Rosa 28.161 (23) 30.024 (23) 29.350 (22)
Nico Hulkenberg 35.393 (24) 36.850 (24)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 342.7 (212.9)
2 Jerome D’Ambrosio Lotus 342.4 (212.8) -0.3
3 Jenson Button McLaren 342.3 (212.7) -0.4
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 341.6 (212.3) -1.1
5 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 341.1 (211.9) -1.6
6 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 341.0 (211.9) -1.7
7 Paul di Resta Force India 340.4 (211.5) -2.3
8 Sergio Perez Sauber 340.2 (211.4) -2.5
9 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 339.8 (211.1) -2.9
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 338.6 (210.4) -4.1
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 338.5 (210.3) -4.2
12 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 338.1 (210.1) -4.6
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 337.8 (209.9) -4.9
14 Bruno Senna Williams 336.7 (209.2) -6.0
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 336.7 (209.2) -6.0
16 Timo Glock Marussia 336.4 (209.0) -6.3
17 Charles Pic Marussia 335.9 (208.7) -6.8
18 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 335.8 (208.7) -6.9
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 334.2 (207.7) -8.5
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 334.0 (207.5) -8.7
21 Mark Webber Red Bull 334.0 (207.5) -8.7
22 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 333.8 (207.4) -8.9
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 333.5 (207.2) -9.2
24 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 333.3 (207.1) -9.4

The straight-line speed disadvantage of the Red Bulls may not be as much of a problem for them as it first appears. It’s less than half the deficit he had last year when he won.

On that occasion Vettel was over 21kph slower than the quickest drivers in qualifying. But come his shorter gear ratios meant he was better-equipped for the race – something Button pointed out after today’s qualifying.

Button led Vettel home at Spa and the Red Bull’s pace in the second half of the race did not go unnoticed by McLaren.

Your view on the Italian Grand Prix

Who do you think will win in Italy? Can Massa take the fight to the McLarens?

And what can Alonso salvage from tenth on the grid? Have your say in the comments.

2012 Italian Grand Prix

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Image ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

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52 comments on Massa’s chance to shine at home of Ferrari

  1. “Felipe has a huge opportunity to win the race tomorrow, for him, for us, for his future.”

    That’s right, put even more pressure on Massa. There’s no way that can possibly go wrong / affect his performance in any way…
    Montezemolo went in a couple of months from “we support Felipe” to “Felipe’s place at Ferrari is not certain” to “Felipe is racing for his future tomorrow”. Silly…

    • vickyy (@vickyy) said on 8th September 2012, 19:29

      But shouldn’t Ferrari be appreciated for their patience with Massa. Last 3 years point difference between him and Massa says it all.

      • vickyy (@vickyy) said on 8th September 2012, 19:30

        *him and alonso

      • Yes, they should. And if they decide to fire Massa based on his lack of results, they have every right to.

        I just have a problem with Luca Di Montezemolo’s flamboyant speeches, always coming at the worst possible time. It’s like he’s the god of things that don’t need to be said and get said anyway.

        It’s a well known fact that Felipe doesn’t cope well under pressure. 2010 and 2011 are proof. Massa is in a good spot to take a home victory for Ferrari tomorrow, something that might restore his credentials with the press and he is very well aware of the fact that a good to great race here would increase his chances of staying with Ferrari in 2013 dramatically. I’m sure at the moment that’s all he thinks about. He doesn’t need an angry Montezemolo to tell him something that could be interpreted as: “we know you don’t have it in you and it’s unlikely to happen, but we mucked Fernando’s car up and now we’re just hoping…do your best, ok?”

        • Luca is comic opera. Politics for sure would suit him.

          Felt sorry for Massa, he finally gets to the top-three interview room and I think the first question put to him was “What happened to Alonzo’s car??” After Singapore, the near-miss of championship, and Hockenheim I just hope more positive comes for him.

    • verstappen (@verstappen) said on 8th September 2012, 20:59

      I hope Felipe wins

    • FlyingLobster27 said on 8th September 2012, 21:12

      Erm, missing words in there – “Felipe has a huge opportunity to move over and let Fernando win the race tomorrow, for him [Fernando], for us, for his future.” If of course Fernando can make the places up.
      Notwithstanding the cynicism, I hope Felipe maintains his quali form, it would be nice to see him battle for wins and podiums again.

    • Becken Lima (@becken-lima) said on 8th September 2012, 23:27

      “…Silly…”

      If he can´t cope with pressure, F1 is not the place to be.

    • Massa’s recent performances rather negate the image of earlier in the year that he must be ditched by Ferrari. The man clearly still has pace; he’s not lost his spirit of competition just yet…

      • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 9th September 2012, 3:57

        Thing about Massa is, that in terms of raw pace he hasn’t been really behind Alonso ever since China. However, things rarely go his way and only four or five times this season he’s actually been able to string a perfect weekend together without hitting trouble.

        Disclaimer: I am certainly not arguing whether Massa is really better than Alonso.

  2. tmekt (@tmekt) said on 8th September 2012, 19:21

    I find it a bit interesting that even though was something broken with Alonso’s car he still managed to beat Massa in 1st ans 3rd sectors and be the the fastest one in sector 3.

  3. Roger Camp (@rogercamp) said on 8th September 2012, 19:22

    This race could be the closest so far among the top 5 drivers. I think it will be impossible to beat McLarens, unless a reliability issue hits them. It will be interesting to see a fight for the 3rd place. I don’t believe it will be any Merc nor Ferrari. I think it will be Vettel or Kimi. It will be very tight and exciting.

    • i disagree. Alonso was faster than both mclaren. I still have a feeling that with some dnf’s a great start by the end of lap 1 Alonso could be 5 or around that place. Then he can and most likely will challge for the race win. I have a gut feeling he might even win the race. What it really caught my attention and that based on the reports the chassis crashed last week was not used and that they brought a new chassis. With that chassi te engine , a part of the brake and he gear box broke down. Today the part that broke impeded Alonso from scoring the pole . So I just can’t understand why the Ferrari crew did not double Chaco every single part of Alonso’s car when they were putting it together, and after it suffered the mechanical failures. They have to do better when their driver is leading the wdc by his own merit , and is being chased down by at least 5 other driver from 3-4 different teams.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th September 2012, 23:54

      As Keith pointed out, Massa is a great starter, if he is leading through the first turn he will be hard and dangerous to pass, giving others an opportunity to attack the McLs and swap places through the front half of the field.

  4. Dimitris 1395 (@dimitris-1395) said on 8th September 2012, 19:25

    Anyone remember the 1998 Austrian Grand Prix? The two McLarens were in front, behind him was Irvine and further back after an accident which broke the nosecone of his car, M.Schumacher Ferrari was quicker all weekend long for first time that season. Irvine was around 2 seconds behind the McLaren in an equal pace and he could go faster and catch them. Though he waited for Schumacher to overtake him and gain more points in the championship battle. But the race finished and Schumacher could only do 3rd, half a minute behind. The similarities are many and that is, in my opinion, what is going to happen tomorrow.

    • Jeanrien (@jeanrien) said on 8th September 2012, 23:57

      @dimitris-1395 good point except that in a first time Ferrari will ask Massa to go ahead if he can. Because Massa winning is a bigger advantage to Alonso than Massa giving him his place. A win would take point away from McLaren mainly while costing fewer point to Alonso … So depends on relative positions from Massa and Alonso but also from WDC rivals.

  5. Valentino (@valentino) said on 8th September 2012, 19:25

    The part that broke on Alonso’s car cost 1 Euro.

  6. carbon_fibre (@carbon_fibre) said on 8th September 2012, 19:37

    Man, I will scream like a little girl if Massa wins tomorrow.

    By the way, Ferrari better double-check Alonso’s car before the race…

  7. Postreader said on 8th September 2012, 19:44

    I expect a FIFTY event tomorrow (Fernando is faster than you…)

  8. The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 8th September 2012, 20:13

    Did I really hear Gary Anderson mention that the two Mclarens could agree to switch position with DRS each lap to boost themselves away from the rest of the field? Is that really possible?? I know the rules allow it, but how advantagous would that actually be?

    • If any team did that I would honestly switch off the TV.

      Was bad enough seeing the stupid DRS passing/re-passing at Abu-Dhabi last year.

    • I seriously doubt that if Hamilton keeps first place after the first couple of corners he won’t try to instantly pull away from Button and the lot. We’re in a season where every point counts and Button is, at the time, one of Hamilton’s closest rivals for the WDC. If Massa can afford helping Alonso and blindly follow Ferrari’s orders now, as he has nothing left to lose, the guys at McLaren don’t share this “luxury”.

    • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 8th September 2012, 22:05

      I’d like to see that – a positive example of team-work, which has gained a negative reputation in F1 with team-mates in front being moved over, lapped cars holding up leaders and so on.

      It’s a good old oval racing tactic – two teammates were putting it to good use to pull out a gap near the end of this year’s Indy 500 (Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon). That’s proper drafting, though – not the artificial DRS kind, but no doubt they did it at Monza too, back in the day.

      The McLaren drivers are skilful enough to make it work – even if Hamilton’s recent actions out of the car have suggested he’s not the sharpest tool in the box, once the visor’s down he’s been impressive this year (I’m thinking of his tyre conservation).

      I think their biggest threat (and possibly the other teams’ only hope) is if Massa makes his good start and gets in among them. Or the cantankerous old git who’s sharing row two with him. Remember how difficult he was to pass last year at Monza – or last week at Spa…

  9. Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 8th September 2012, 20:28

    The speed of the Ferraris around the Parabolica suggests they have more downforce than everybody else. This also ought to help Massa and Alonso into the first corner tomorrow, but the lack of straightline speed (at least compared to the McLarens) could be costly thereafter.

    • About that first corner, I seriously hope Alonso won’t get in a tangle again. I don’t like the looks of those 4 to 7 rows at the start. With Kobayashi and Di Resta usually getting poor starts and so many relatively fast drivers immediately behind them: Alonso, Webber, Perez, Senna, Maldonado further back etc. who will try to make up positions right at the start. It might turn ugly again.

  10. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 8th September 2012, 21:42

    I would so dearly love to see Massa win tomorrow after the seasons he has had lately. However, I think the McLarens will prove too fast over a race distance so, unless they hit trouble, Felipe will probably be looking at 3rd. Hardly a bad result, though.

    I suspect Alonso’s immediate plan will be to survive the first lap without incident. It’s fast, it’s narrow and the midfield is very tightly packed. While carnage like we saw at Spa is unlikely, it’s very easy to lose your front wing in all of that, which is the last thing Fernando needs. From there, he probably has the pace to challenge for big points, with 3rd or 4th certainly not out of the question, especially if other front runners hit trouble.

    I think the factor we’re forgetting is that Monza is a car breaker, with the high speeds and heat putting great strain on various components. We’ve seen a number of failures already this weekend, and more are certainly not out of the question.

    I’m not going to say the race has the makings of a classic, but it should be an intriguing battle and well worth watching!

  11. will be a mclaren one-two if no one flies into them at the first corner tomorow, red bull and lotus especially vettel and raikkonen will make up places tomorow because of their awesome race pace and will fight for the last podium place, alonso will probably finish 5th with the mercs falling behind in the race as usual

  12. Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 8th September 2012, 22:21

    I would be thrilled if Felipe could bring home his long awaited 12th win tomorrow.

    A Massa, Schumacher Raikkonen podium would shake up the championship and have a tinge of wonderful mid 2000’s nostalgia to it.

    Not that I expect a result like that, but hey, a guy can hope!

  13. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 8th September 2012, 22:43

    Prediction: either Massa or Schumacher will have a flying start to split the McLarens, but then hold everyone up and effectively gift the win to whichever car is ahead.

  14. xeroxpt (@) said on 8th September 2012, 22:44

    Those speed trap values are so interesting, we were to think that the Mercedes were the quickest because how they line-up on the grid. These results demonstrate the impact of aerodynamics, despite this data the Mercedes engines are still probably the most powerful and that may allow the teams that use Mercedes to run higher downforce, masking the speed trap results but resulting on a grid that is dominated by Mercedes powered engines, having a clear tactical advantage that perhaps goes beyond top end, they might have better drive-ability, as reported by several former drivers like Barrichello, just the most experienced F1 driver.

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