September 8th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Felipe Massa is under a lot of pressure at the moment. In the next few days, he will find out if he has done enough to retain his seat at Ferrari for next season. But this weekend, the pressure did not show in his performance on the track. He delivered in qualifying and the race. Whether it will help him stay at Ferrari or not remains to be seen.
On Saturday, Massa outqualified his Ferrari team-mate, Fernando Alonso, for only the fourth time this season. On Sunday, he stormed off the line at the start of the race and passed Nico Hulkenberg and Mark Webber, slotting into second place behind Sebastian Vettel heading into the first corner. In fact, Massa had such a strong start that Vettel locked up his front tyres heavily under braking for turn one, showing just how much pressure he was under from the Ferrari driver who had started the race three places behind him.
From that point, it was clear that Vettel had more than enough pace in hand to pull away from Massa, but Massa held position ahead of third-placed Mark Webber. Eventually Alonso found his way past Webber and then set about catching Massa, who dutifully let him through, in keeping with his team's wishes.
Massa lost out to Webber in the pits, emerging from his one and only stop behind the Red Bull. At that point, Webber's superior Red Bull ensured that Massa would not be able to catch or pass the Australian, but he kept at it anyway, chasing down Webber and Alonso in the closing stages of the race and finishing just 3 seconds behind Webber.
After the race, Massa expressed his satisfaction with his his afternoon had progressed:
“I am very happy with my race, which went fantastically well right from the beginning, thanks to a nice start which moved me up two places. The pace was good on both compounds and we ran consistently throughout the whole race. It was a shame I lost the place to Webber at the pit stop, because today, the podium was within our grasp and it would have been brilliant to celebrate with our fans at our home race. Today, overtaking wasn’t easy, because, when you find yourself behind another car, especially in the second sector, you loose a lot of downforce.
"Overall, the weekend has been very positive for me and for the whole team. We brought home a good points haul, but we know we still have a lot of work to do if we want to improve. As far as that’s concerned, I will be doing my utmost right to the very end of the Championship."
Massa played his part for Ferrari perfectly at Monza. He did everything that could have been expected of him. Unfortunately, it was a rare shining afternoon in a season that has been generally disappointing for the Brazilian. The general consensus is that he will be replaced by Ferrari at the end of the season, and that announcement should be made in the next few days. If that is the case, then he has at least given the Italian fans a little something to shout about in his last race at Monza for Ferrari.