Felipe Massa is rarely one to shy away from expressing an opinion and while holding court with journalists at the Red Bull Ring, he offered erudite thoughts regarding Formula 1’s future direction. Massa’s experience with V10s, V8s and V6s, several teams and different styles of racing across over a decade in the sport enables him to provide an insight only available from a select few on the current grid.
Formula 1 has been facing a self-determined identity crisis in recent months, with a widespread fan survey launched by drivers and the Strategy Group unveiling drastic plans which may or may not be introduced in 2017.
Shirking the option to just deliver a typical driver response, Massa offered his lengthy thoughts over the sport’s future, warning that making changes may result in further complaints, in short suggesting that there will never be the perfect formula.
“It’s interesting to make the cars quicker but I think if you just put the car five seconds quicker and you make overtaking even less than it is now people will complain anyway,” he said.
“I understand that [wanting to make cars quicker], I want the car as quick as we can but I think the change needs to be intelligent, the change doesn’t need to be just ‘put the cars quicker on track’, as if you are three seconds quicker [then] on the television nobody understands, I think it needs to be intelligent change and make improve the show for the people.”
“For example, I was watching the [NBA] finals in basketball this week and it’s amazing to follow them in Instagram and how they help the competition, if you see one game, the Instagram is showing so many things for people. We need that here as well, we need to see and understand what people are doing in other championships to copy, things that really good for people.”
Massa stressed that rather than make rash decisions, any changes needed to be well thought through.
“Sometimes we need things on the technical side but also some things for the whole weekend, but I think the change needs to be intelligent – not just putting a lot of downforce on the car so when the car will be quicker we will brake even later and overtaking will be even more difficult.
“People want to see competition, overtakes, fights and I think that needs to be the change, I understand, but when I see [comments made by] Kimi [Räikkönen] and [Niki] Lauda says it needs to be more dangerous I don’t agree, I think it just needs to be better –more intelligent, like a very important study to make it more intelligent. Not just change, in Formula 1 we always had a lot of change and sometimes change does not change anything you know!”
Massa suggested that the human tendency to revel in nostalgia – the phrase ‘rose-tinted glasses’ comes to mind – does not help when trying to make advancements for the future.
“I mean if you see in the past, I remember when it was 20 years of Ayrton [Senna]’s crash and I remember in Brazil they were showing all the races and I was watching a lot of the races he did and it is a lot worse than how it is now. So the difference in qualifying was like maybe 1.5 seconds to the third [from pole], they were lapping the third place in the race so the difference was a lot bigger than what it is now, but when you talk to the people they say (as this point, an increasingly animated Massa throws his hands in the air), the past is amazing! So go back and watch, and then compare to now. So I think this is something people need to try and not look at the past without remembering well and saying the past is amazing.”
Massa also dismissed suggestions that Max Verstappen’s ascent to Formula 1 at the age of 17 has made Formula 1 look to easy, or that increased safety standards had resulted in young drivers taking extra risks.
“You can make them harder to drive but sometimes people think it’s easy – go there and you will see if it is easy! It’s not easy, maybe it looks more smooth on television. If you put even more downforce then the car will just stick on the ground.
“It’s stupid to make things more dangerous. Do you want to see drivers get hurt? So why we need to change? When I was in my first year I made a lot of mistakes like that [citing Verstappen in Monaco], when I was 20 years old, watch GP2, watch the other categories, watch F3 the other day [at Monza] they were flying away, it happens, especially with experience you get a bit better on that, I don’t think really it’s because of that.”
It’s not a driver’s job to fix Formula 1 – it is, after all, their priority to get results on-track – but Massa’s words show that change needs to be well evaluated in order to ensure it has the desired positive effect.