Why Felipe Massa needs to relax


Football is a simple game, complicated by idiots.

These are the words of the legendary, and I mean legendary, Liverpool team manager Bill Shankly who was never afraid to call a spade a spade.

Formula 1 is a complicated game, but simpler if you have special talent, a cool head and a lot of confidence. The latter is the most important, and to be confident you must first be relaxed, have plenty of time – like Messi in front of goal – and all the truly great racing drivers have time, nothing is done in a panic, the style is barely ever flustered. Think of Clark, Stewart, Prost, Senna, Schumacher and more recently Fernando Alonso.

As we know, the man in the other Ferrari is, for some, reason having a torrid time and speculation over his future will do nothing to help. But he could, if he chose, learn a lot from Alonso, just as others before him have learnt from the ‘greats’ on the other side of the garage. Rubens Barrichello seems to agree, advising Felipe Massa to relax, to take a view on where he is, to go with the flow and savour his place on the grid for what it is, a privilege given to just 24 men on the planet.

“He needs to re-discover the joy of being a racing driver,” said Barrichello, “to relax and sort out his mental attitude. This is not a speed problem, it is inside his head. As drivers, we have to relax, and then we can improve. It is a tough hurdle to overcome, yes, because he knows that Ferrari adores Alonso because Fernando is one of the best, if not the best in F1.”

Wise words from a wise old bird now perched in an Indycar. First, Massa probably needs to see his team-mate as a positive, not a negative, in the sense that Alonso has clearly found the keys that unlock the doors to success. For example, last week he went to Madrid to chill out before jumping back into the simulator. He went to watch Real Madrid play football, had his photo taken with his hero Zinedine Zidane, went karting, spent time with friends and family. He was, in other words, relaxing.

As an aside, while Alonso was in the simulator at Maranello last Thursday, Jenson Button was working away in the simulator at Woking. This, to a degree, is where races are won and lost, unless there is a torrential downpour, like in Malaysia, and then anything can happen.

In China last year Massa qualified sixth, just hundredths of a second away from Alonso with whom he shared the third row of the grid. In the race Massa was sixth, 15 seconds ahead of Alonso in seventh. He could do it then and he can do it again. They don’t forget how to do it, they simply get wound up. Only Massa knows what the problem is, but let’s hope he has it sorted when the pitlane opens in Shanghai this morning.

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