Felipe Massa column: Williams now a match for Red Bull

In his second column for Motorsport.com, Felipe Massa reflects on the Russian Grand Prix and his team's battle with Red Bull.

Felipe Massa column: Williams now a match for Red Bull
Felipe Massa, Williams
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams leads team mate Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 Team W07 and Felipe Massa, Williams FW38 battle for position
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38 practices a pit stop
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38
Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Racing RB12
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38

Sochi is one of those places in the world that is not so easy to get to, which is why, two years ago, I organised a charter flight, together with a number of drivers that reside in Monaco.

It's a tradition that continues today, and we've made sure to immortalise our journey together with some group photos.

This year it was left to Nico Rosberg to organise everything, and I have to say that, judging by the outcome of the race, maybe that was his good luck charm.

Hopefully it means he will accept this task happily in the future!

Championship boost

On track, it was a positive Russian Grand Prix for Williams Martini Racing,  and in terms of points, it was a very good one for us.

At some points of the weekend, we could even have imagined that we would be going away with a podium finish.

Although that did not happen, to have left Sochi with 22 points in the bag compared to Red Bull getting zero is not bad at all. We recovered a lot of ground in the constructors' championship, and that is really important.

The weekend was good right from the start. Williams does not normally find itself in good positions during FP1 and FP2 practice on Friday, because we prefer to conduct all our work in race trim.

The engineers also like to focus their analysis on tyre degradation, which means a strict programme of long runs, so it rarely happens that myself or Valtteri Bottas end up in the top five on the Friday charts.

But that is exactly what happened in Sochi, where the results were there from the start, and the positions were certainly no fluke. The step we had made was also confirmed on Saturday and Sunday, with Valtteri taking fourth and me fifth.

It is true that Ferrari and Mercedes were not within our reach, but in Sochi we were firmly the third-best team.

Fastest lap chance

My race was pretty straightforward, and I'm glad I found a good rhythm.

In the closing stages, we even decided to make a second pitstop as a precaution, because Valtteri was clear in front of me with a good safety buffer, and behind me I had a big gap to Fernando Alonso, which allowed me to change tyres without risk of losing positions.

I returned to the supersoft compound I had started the race on, and I also knew that, if in the final laps of the race there had been a safety car, then I would have been in an ideal situation!

Even without that, I must confess that I was very optimistic about the possibility of getting the fastest lap of the race as I had the perfect conditions: low fuel and fresh supersoft tyres.

At one point I thought I had succeeded, but Rosberg responded at the end and took the chance away from me. Monstrous! Anyway, everyone saw that the Mercedes in Sochi was unbeatable.

Tyre philosophy

Russia was a race where there was very little tyre wear, and it was something that generated mixed reviews. I think in F1 we often see two different philosophies now, and each of them making different people happy.

From the drivers' point of view, when there is high degradation, I have to say the racing becomes less exciting. You have to focus on so many more other aspects than just fighting other cars, and you end up becoming a bit of an engineer in the car because you have to monitor so many parameters.

I think this is less satisfying for drivers, even though for spectators the show is more exciting like we saw at the Chinese Grand Prix. There, we had many pitstops and a lot of overtaking, which was generated by there being such a variety of different race strategies.

Sochi was a different type of racing because overtaking was so difficult. In the race, we did not see many stops and the strategies were virtually the same for everyone. When it is like that, the drivers can push 100 percent, but paradoxically it means that the show is not as good!

Red Bull battle

For now, our focus is already on the next race in Barcelona, a track the drivers and teams know really well after our pre-season testing there.

The Circuit de Catalunya is a track that rewards a good chassis and good aerodynamics, especially in the third sector. It will not be an easy weekend for us, but we will aim to make as many points up to Red Bull as we can.

We have many good cards still to play, and I want to take this moment to emphasise that over the first part of 2016, Williams has made great strides with its pitstops. At all four races so far we have been the fastest team overall – three times with me and one time with Valtteri.

So I would like to give a round of applause to all the guys in the team for a job well done. Let's go on like this!

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Russian GP
Location Sochi Autodrom
Drivers Felipe Massa
Teams Williams
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