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F1: Under Pressure

by on March 29, 2012

Most of us are familiar with the Queen song, “Under Pressure” and some of us might be familiar or have even used a “Pressure Cooker”.  Currently there are two F1 drivers that are quite familiar with both terms in a completely different context.

Pressure is a funny thing…just enough pressure and heat over just enough time will turn lumps of coal into diamonds…too much pressure applied to a target too weak to sustain it and the target will crack.

Massa and Vettel are both under a fair amount of pressure already this season.  Let’s start with reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.  Having won two consecutive championships in a class leading car has been relatively easy for the young F1 star.  Perhaps not both championships, however last season was most certainly a cake walk by most accounts.  This season however, after only two Grand Prix, he finds himself in sixth in the championship standings with only 18 points to Alonso’s leading 35 points.  While this is a long season and there is plenty of time to turn things around, one has to wonder if he’s putting too much pressure on himself.  In Malaysia, we saw a tiny crack in Vettel’s mental armour.  The incident has been well documented as he flipped Narain Karthikeyan the bird twice as we saw on the broadcast. Also well documented has been the champion ignoring an apparent order from the pit wall to not finish the race so they might replace the gearbox before the next GP without penalty. A problematic radio was blamed, however I have my doubts.

 These actions don’t at all seem to be consistent with the Vettel we have come to know.  Gone is that boyish grin and sense of humour.  He seems to be unhappy, perhaps for the first time in his F1 career.  The root cause has to be the struggles he’s having with the RB8 which can’t seem to be able to compete at the same level as McLaren (yet).  I believe he’s unduly putting pressure on himself which may be making things worse than they need to be.   Teammate Mark Webber seems to be much more relaxed this season and also seems to be enjoying himself a bit more as he sits 6 points up on Vettel.

No single driver however, is under as much pressure as Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.  Ferrari started development on the F2012 at the mid-way point of the 2011 season.  Taking a much more aggressive approach in the design of the car, many believe it is the car with the most potential on the grid but also one of the hardest to find it’s sweet spot. Difficult to drive, lacking in top speed and grip, it’s a handful.  Coming off a disappointing season and battling a team mate that seems to be able to make more out of the car, Felipe is looking at a “make or break” season.  With zero points after the first two races while team mate Alonso leads the championship has the pressure mounting to critical levels.  Some say Massa might not be as mentally strong as some of the other drivers on the grid, he will have to find strength if he is going to save his seat at Ferrari or perhaps even F1.  While Ferrari have told the Brazilian that this year is important for him and that he must perform, he has also been given much support from the team recently as well.  After Malaysia, he flew back to Maranello to meet with the team. One thing is certain, the pressure continues to mount for Massa and he may crack if results don’t come soon. 


“Not gaining any points in two races hurts, but now we’ll turn a new leaf…it’s not the first time that I have to struggle like this and I know that things can change very quickly, but now is the time to do our best to make it happen because I don’t want to have another bad period like this one…I want to return to normality…to a situation in which I can express my talent like I’ve always done so far, like the team knows that I can.”


Only time will tell if either driver will crack under this pressure or if they can overcome it and shine like diamonds under the F1 spotlight. 


Author: Ernie Black




From → Formula One

  1. Good post and a good call that Vettel, as well as Massa, is under pressure.

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