Felipe Massa has come under a lot of pressure over the first quarter of Formula E season for not achieving a points scoring position regularly.
However, Massa has actually had a strong start to his rookie career as a Formula E driver, despite only picking up four points from the first four races of the season.
That might not seem like a lot considering his team-mate Edorado Mortara has accumulated 27 points over the same period. However, Massa has been closely matched with his team-mate Mortara ever since the opening round in Saudi Arabia. The two drivers are currently drawing the qualifying head-to-head battle 2-2, but Mortara is leading the race results battle 3-1. But, you have to remember that Mortara has already had a season in Formula E with Venturi, which would have made the Swiss-Italian driver favourite to come out on top. In this context, Massa’s results against Mortara at this stage of the season do not compare badly at all.
Furthermore, in the qualifying sessions, he lost to Mortara he was only +0.077 slower in Saudi Arabia and two-tenths off in Santiago, but in Marrakesh, the 37-year-old was two-tenths quicker than Mortara and was also two-tenths clear in Mexico.
Also, you have to remember that the Venturi is not a car that will be scoring regular points this season, despite the improvements the team seem to have made from the Santiago ePrix. At the start of the season, it looked like Venturi would be in a fight with NIO to avoid being last in the teams’ championship. Therefore, expecting Massa to set the world alight in his opening four races was an unrealistic target.
Now, you might well be thinking that Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein has less experience than Massa in Formula E, and he nearly won two races. Yes, but Wehrlein is in a car that is capable of winning races, As proven by his teammate Jerome D’Ambrosio, whereas Massa is not in a car that can realistically challenge for podiums every race. (Even though Mortara managed to claim the final step on the podium in Mexico City.)
It was also quite telling in Mexico that both Nissan drivers pushed hard on useable energy and ended up dropping out of the points by the final lap, whereas Massa, despite not saving energy as well as Mortara, opted to lift and coast earlier in the race, and as a result profited to finish 8th; it was reminiscent of some races late on in the Brazilian’s F1 career, where Massa successfully nursed degrading sets of Pirelli tyres through extended stints and reaped the rewards for doing so.
Mexico proved that the Venturi car had made a step forward, and with that Massa has also stepped up his game, making it into Super Pole for the first time and qualifying third fastest, a feat Mortara has yet to equal in qualifying this season. This shows that Massa does potentially have the ability to do consistently well in the championship; if the Venturi car does continue to improve, then Massa will get a chance to score further points and prove that he is worthy of his drive in Formula E.
Time will tell if Massa’s tenure in Formula E will prove to be a success or not, but at this stage of the season the veteran Brazilain driver has done a good job and has matched his team-mate who has a year’s experience under his belt. It may be too early to judge Massa now, but it will become clearer towards the end of the European season how much progress Massa has made, and what his strengths and weaknesses are as a Formula E driver.