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Behind the scenes Monza: Felipe Massa's emotion and the "Alonsofication" of Vettel

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Behind the scenes Monza: Felipe Massa's emotion and the "Alonsofication" of Vettel
Sep 1, 2016, 7:16 PM

Monza always throws up some moments of theatre and today was no exception as Felipe Massa announced his retirement and the two Ferrari drivers spok...

Monza always throws up some moments of theatre and today was no exception as Felipe Massa announced his retirement and the two Ferrari drivers spoke in the FIA press conference about their collision with each other and how to control dangerous driving on track.

We also learned a new word: Alonsification.

I hosted both media events and the emotion of the former and the intensity of the latter were notable.

Massa was understandably emotional, calling time on a career that has lasted 15 years in F1, including his stint as Ferrari test driver. He has always been one of the more likeable drivers in F1 and history will probably consign him to the category of 'too nice to be a champion'.

Felipe Massa, Brazil 2008

But let us not forget that he came within a whisker of winning the 2008 title when he won his home Grand Prix, doing everything he had to do that day, but losing out on the final corner of the last lap as Lewis Hamilton passed Timo Glock's Toyota to claim the fifth place he needed to become champion.

There are all kinds of conspiracy theories about that episode, but the facts of the day were that it began to drizzle in the closing stages and some drivers pitted for intermediate tyres. In the final two laps of the race the rain began to fall harder and Toyota's gamble of leaving both drivers out on slicks failed. Going into the last lap, the rain intensified and Glock's sector times increased, allowing Hamilton to catch and pass him with less than a kilometre to go.

Felipe Massa, Brazil 2008

Massa was a picture of dignity on the podium that day; he'd won his home Grand Prix for the second time, a very special achievement, but he'd lost the championship by a one point to a driver who wasn't there on the podium with him. His tears and dignity were impressive and when I think of Massa the F1 driver I think of that moment.

He had some great races and great poles too; he was always mighty on the Istanbul circuit, for example, another anti-clockwise track and one that suited him very well.

He said before the conference that he was more nervous about making his announcement than he had been for any race start. But he was also mindful that he would feel a sense of relief that it was now out in the open. The warmth of the applause he received from the assembled media and other team members in the Williams motorhome was genuine.

Felipe Massa retirement

He sat on a stool in front of a turnout of hundreds, crammed into the Williams motorhome. His father, wife and son sat on the front row, with manager Nicolas Todt alongside. Massa Sr videoed the whole thing on his iPhone with a white Massa #19 iPhone case.

Half an hour later the six drivers in the FIA press conference were paying tribute to Massa, a colleague for 15 years for some, like Jenson Button.

But the main topic on the agenda was Spa and the fallout from the startline collision of the two Ferrari drivers with Max Verstappen and then the Dutchman's aggressive defence against Kimi Raikkonen later in the race. While elsewhere in the paddock Verstappen was receiving support from Fernando Alonso, who said that it is okay to move once on a straight as Verstappen had done, in the press conference room, Raikkonen was being about as forthright as Raikkonen gets.

"I’ve nothing personally against him [Verstappen]," said the Finn. "It’s just certain things in my view that are not correct. I’ve no interest to call Max into it but obviously if somebody says during the race that he does something because of what happened in the first corner, that it’s payback, I don’t think it’s the correct sport to start doing purposely paying back something that has happened. It can end up in a very bad way."

Kimi Raikkonen

Meanwhile Raikkonen and Vettel met this week in Maranello and had an in depth discussion about it; the second time they have collided on the opening lap this season after Shanghai.

Raikkonen said that Vettel had apologised to him, while Vettel accepted that he should have given more room at La Source, but defended himself by saying that he hadn't appreciated Raikkonen had another car on his right.

Vettel became quite serious when the topic turned to the Stewards and the inconsistency of their decisions. All the drivers present lamented the fact that there is a lack of consistency in refereeing driver behaviour, with penalties handed out some times and not at others.

The German, who is a director of the GP Drivers' Association said that with overly complex rules and different stewards at each race it is almost impossible to get 100% consistency. So he argued that the drivers should be left to sort out matters like Verstappen moving in the braking zone amongst themselves behind closed doors. He was pretty strong on this and it will be interesting to see how the discussion goes.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting scheduled some time with Vettel and Raikkonen today to go through video of the Spa incidents to explain why he did not feel that the stewards should pursue Verstappen.

Max Verstappen Kimi Raikkonen

Another line of interest in the conference came from Vettel's response to the question of why it's not happening for Ferrari this year. As I walked into the track this morning with one of the well respected Italian journalists he told me that they now have a new word for what its happening to Vettel at Ferrari; they call it "Alonsofication".

'Alonsofication' means going to Ferrari expecting a winning car and then getting that sinking feeling after a while as the objective seems to get further away, rather than closer. It's what happened to Fernando Alonso and it appears to be happening to Vettel although he defended the situation at Ferrari, as one would expect him to do.

Fernando Alonso 2013

"I think it’s clear that all of us inside the team, we are not very patient, we have very high expectations which I think we’ve expressed many times at the beginning of the year," he said.

"We want to fight for the championship but, as I said, as a net result so far we haven’t been competitive and quick enough – yet. We are trying our utmost to improve it. There’s a lot of things happening on the track, even more things happening back in Maranello at the factory to work on that and change that. People are fired up – even if it still takes a little bit."

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