Felipe Massa made it clear that his team was wrong to ask him to move over for his team-mate just two races into the season and is convinced Williams will not use team orders again unless absolutely necessary.
Massa and team-mate Valtteri Bottas had been running seventh and eighth and were in pursuit of Jenson Button’s McLaren in the closing stages of last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix when the team radioed the lead Williams driver and asked him to make way for Bottas.
Williams felt that Bottas, on fresher tyres, had a better chance of attacking and passing Button than Massa, who apart from running on more worn tyres was also struggling with high engine temperatures.
But the team had planned to switch the positions back if Bottas failed to get past Button.
Massa, however, ignored the radio call, the wording of which was strikingly similar to the message he received during the 2010 German Grand Prix when he was ordered to hand the race win to then Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso.
“What’s happened last weekend, I didn’t expect it and it was not correct and the team knows that,” Massa said.
“Team orders is part of our sport, you know. But it needs to be part of our sport when it’s necessary,” he told reporters in the Bahrain paddock.
“I did many times, I did very important team-orders, you know, also to help Kimi to win the championship you know. So I’m totally open to being inside of the team and I am inside of the team.”
In an interview later in the day with Richland F1, Massa added that after discussions with the team in the aftermath of the incident, he was now convinced that Williams would hold off implementing team orders until it was absolutely necessary.
“Yeah, pretty much. Pretty convinced and pretty relaxed for all the meetings and everything I did with the team,” Massa said.
“Anyway, I’m really ready to help the team in the best way I can when it’s necessary but I want the same as well from the team,” he added.
He also said that his reluctance to move over for Bottas in Malaysia perhaps stemmed from the need to reassert himself and shed the number-two driver tag he had acquired after several seasons playing second fiddle to Alonso.
“Sure, I’m not a number two driver, definitely,” he said in the interview to be published later.
“I didn’t sign for Williams to be number two driver. I signed for Williams to be very respected, not even to be number one, to be equal, and that’s really what I’m always looking for in my career and that’s what I’m going to do all the time and that’s what counts.”
For his part, Bottas agreed with his team-mate that it was maybe too early in the season for team orders to come into play and conceded that Williams could have perhaps dealt with the situation better.
“Yeah, like I said before there were some things we could have done better,” Bottas said.
“You know it’s only the second race and I think both of us would have wanted to race, proper racing, so you know we’ll learn from it,” he added, also saying that Williams should probably have told Massa that he would get the position back if Bottas failed to pass Button.
However, the Finn made it clear that if the positions were reversed, he would put the team first.
“They have all the data available and they are focusing on getting maximum points for the two cars on track and in the end you’re employed by the team and you work for the team so for me it’s really clear what to do.”
“Of course also you want to do your best but you know I think you need to play by the rules always. For me it’s always been very clear.”
Images courtesy Williams Martini Racing