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Reflections on the Istanbul GP

I am beginning to think that Brazil has a new star. Not only did Felipe Massa win in Turkey, he made it look easy. Michael can mutter about pace cars and pit stops as much as he likes but the fact is Massa was better all weekend and made no mistakes.

Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa in Turkey

There were a handful of occasions when Barrichello was Michael’s teammate that he too looked the better, but they were few and far between. The difference in what Massa is doing is that he keeps improving in both technique and maturity, leading us to wonder just how much better he can get as he learns the Ferrari. He is still in his first season with the team, remember.

You can say that Massa gained the pole only through a couple of Schumacher mistakes but that ignores the reason for mistakes; invariably, they are the result of trying too hard. And, if Michael was twice pressured into mistakes that cost him pole position, it would seem pretty clear that he knew he had his work cut out to beat Massa. The Renaults were never a threat to him.

As it happens, the result was both the worst and best possible for Ferrari. Worst, because Michael lost out on a victory that would have closed the gap to Alonso in the championship; best because the team gained on Renault and because they avoided the embarrassing scenario of having to order Massa to let Michael through into the lead. Would they have done it? Jean Todt won’t say now, of course, but Massa was ready to do it, slowing on his final lap in case Michael managed to get past Alonso.

It was a good race for the fans too, with plenty of battles and overtaking throughout the field. Button confirmed that the Honda is coming good with a strong and unchallenged drive to fourth. Barrichello reiterated the lesson with race-long duels ending in a well-deserved eighth place.

Kubica looked good in the BMW Sauber until the tires went off. Although the team were disappointed with their performance, I would say that they have great days to look forward to with the young Polish driver; all it needs is that they start getting the tire choice right.

Otherwise, it was pretty much business as usual, with the Toyotas making it difficult for themselves but showing what might have been, the Williams fading away after a good start and the little teams flying off the road at every opportunity. McLaren had a race they will want to forget as soon as possible.

But it was Massa’s day, even if we couldn’t keep our eyes off the Schumacher/Alonso battle in the last few laps. That is the way with dominant wins – they lack the excitement of a tussle, merely demonstrating the superiority of man and machine on the day. Who would bet against Massa having one or two more like that before the end of the season?

If he’s allowed to, of course…

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