The Inside Line #72: Words of wisdom

TILI Logo PrintIf it takes (racing with) one to know one, then Felipe Massa is well placed to comment. Right throughout his career, the Brazilian has driven alongside world champions – Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso – which made his comments last week on his teammate for this season, Valtteri Bottas, all the more interesting.

After such a difficult debut campaign last year, Bottas has shone in 2014 – indeed, Force India team boss Vijay Mallya [1] calls him “the star of the season so far” – and Massa believes the Finn has what it takes to be a world champion. It’s a big call for someone who hasn’t yet won a race, but it’s hardly the outrageous statement it would have been this time 12 months ago. This season has been notable for the changing of the guard in F1 – while results for the likes of Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil have dried up [2], the younger brigade headed by Daniel Ricciardo, Bottas and Kevin Magnussen have made waves, a trend that brings the future of several drivers into sharper focus, for the right or wrong reasons.

The Italian Grand Prix was one Bottas and Williams had been looking forward to all year, and for good reason. With the FW36 routinely the quickest car through the speed traps all season, Monza – with its series of straights interrupted only by the occasional chicane – was the team’s best chance to take a race win on merit in a season dominated by Mercedes. A poor start scuppered Bottas’ chance of that maiden victory, but Williams could at least take some comfort from Massa’s first podium for the team while moving ahead of Ferrari in the constructors’ race in front of the dispirited tifosi.

A comprehensive review of the 13th round of the season features in this week’s episode of ‘The Inside Line’, while we also look at how McLaren hopes to bridge the gap from the midfield to the top three, and how Ferrari plan to turn things around after such a desperately disappointing season. Ticket sales were reportedly so poor ahead of Monza that the race organisers were offering 40 per cent discounts to drum up some interest – with so little to cheer about when it comes to the red cars this season, you can see why. [3]

Check out ‘The Inside Line’ on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm on Wednesday September 10, and/or on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 8.30pm on Thursday September 11.

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[1] Dear Vijay – er, Daniel Ricciardo? Smiley bloke who drives for that energy drinks company. Puts four-time world champion Germans in the shade. Quite affable. Wins every now and then. Says “mate” a lot. Be sure to pay attention …

[2] For Sutil, they weren’t exactly dripping wet to start with.

[3] The crowds may have been down this season, but Monza is still the best podium of the year by some distance. Magic.

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