Felipe Massa defiant in Williams Malaysia GP team orders spat after ignoring calls
Brazilian veteran unmoved as Claire Williams fails to criticise driver
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 01/04/14 9:42am
Felipe Massa has struck a defiant stance against his failure to heed Williams team orders in the Malaysia GP and insisted he "did the right thing" in not letting Valtteri Bottas overtake him.
Twelve months on from the Red Bull and Mercedes team orders rows that overshadowed last year's grand prix at Sepang, Massa found himself at the centre of a spat in just his second race for Williams heading into the closing stages of Sunday's 56-lap race.
Having caught but been unable to pass the McLaren of Jenson Button for sixth place into the closing stint, Massa was instructed by the pitlane to cede position to fast-oncoming team-mate Bottas so the Finn, whose tyres were two laps fresher, could launch an attack of his own on the former World Champion.
"Okay Felipe, Valtteri is faster than you - do not hold him up," Massa was told over the radio by his race engineer on lap 53.
But having failed to yield to the sister car after the first call, the Brazilian was then told a lap later that "Valtteri has better tyres, we need to let him go. Do not hold him up."
Massa, however, ignored the instruction again and held seventh place to the flag, finishing just four tenths of a second ahead of Bottas.
The 32-year-old has well-documented history with team orders having been on the receiving end of them on numerous occasions during his eight-year Ferrari career, most famously of all at the 2010 German GP when he was told "Fernando is faster than you" and had to give away a likely victory to Alonso.
Striking a defiant stance in his post-race interview at Sepang, Massa said he had simply raced as hard as he could and insisted Bottas wouldn't have had any better luck in trying to pass the McLaren.
"I think I did the best I could on my race," Massa told Sky Sports F1.
"I was fighting to Jenson until the end and definitely that was my target, just to score as many points for the team and for me as well.
"We are fighting for the championship, we are in the second race. Definitely I tried the best I could and Valtteri couldn't pass me so it was going to be difficult to pass Jenson as well. So I don't think things would have been changed at the end."
Massa added: "I was there, I was fighting. It was not that we were on two completely [different] strategies. He was not in a different strategy to me, he stopped just after me and his tyre was slightly better, but not enough to pass me and not enough to pass Jenson as well. So what I did was the right thing."
Having previously made clear how much he was enjoying his early months at Williams following his winter switch from Ferrari, Massa also expressed confidence that the incident wouldn't negatively impact on his relationship with the team.
"We scored points for the team, that's positive. I feel a lot of respect for the team when they signed for me the first time and until a few hours ago as well, so I don't think this will change," he insisted.
"We are fighting to the best as well and I'm fighting for the championship as well. That's my point and I don't think things will be difficult or strange when I get to the garage. I really believe in the team and I'm doing the best I can to help the team and they need to do [that] as well."
Despite Massa's apparent flagrant disregard of his team's direct instructions, Williams Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams failed to rebuke the 11-times grand prix winner.
"It's racing. It's such a difficult situation," she told Sky F1.
"You've got to do the best job for your team at the end of the day, it's a team sport, and that's what we are here to do to maximise the points for our team in the Constructors' Championship. That's the way it is. At the end of the day Felipe finished ahead of Valtteri."
Pressed on whether she agreed that Massa had nonetheless failed to carry out their orders, Williams replied: "He didn't ignore them, but both cars were getting really hot at the end of the race and they were both told they needed to make sure they got both cars across the lines rather than overheating them. Valtteri was also told to cool it off as well.
"I'm very happy we are ending the race in P7 and 8, which is a great result for Williams. Much better than anything we did last year so I'm happy."
Bottas, meanwhile, was keeping his own counsel when quizzed on the brewing intra-team controversy after the race.
"I don't want to really comment [about] that. We should really speak in the team first what happened there and what messages they gave to Felipe," he said.
And in unsurprising contrast to Massa's point of view, Bottas expressed confidence that he would have been able to overtake Button for sixth had he been able to attack the McLaren.
"I think there was a really good chance for me to get Jenson. I was approaching really quickly but, like I said, we need to speak with the team," he added.