Alan NgLooking at Felipe Massa this time round and the waning challenge from BMW-Sauber, by Alan Ng.

For those who read the first Formula 1 midseason report, you would probably wonder why I only mentioned Felipe Massa briefly while giving full attention to Kimi Raikkonen.

After all, the two drivers have been pretty much equally strong this season with neither gaining an upper hand for long.

I don’t know about you but being a Ferrari fan myself, I don’t really see Massa as the kind of driver I would like to support to be the champion somehow. He’s more like Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello than Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen. This is purely my own bias but I know I’m not alone here :)

I think it’s mainly because he’s not the type of driver that will raise your heartbeat level during a race. He’s brilliant when he’s in front and when the car’s working for him (think Bahrain and Turkey) but when the chips are down, so does his level of skills (at least five spins in Silverstone!!). There’s still the question of his mental strength. Being a Brazilian, Massa is a very passionate about his driving but in order to do well in F1, you really need a calm, collected and cool head to be on top of things.

Having said that, he is keeping Ferrari ahead in the constructors’ championship, delivering when Kimi hit trouble in previous races. That is why he’s only 3 points behind Kimi with much more to play for in the last seven races. But this then poses a dilemma to the Ferrari team. Which driver to back for the final push in the championship? For now, because these two guys are so equal, resources have to be split equally between the two of them.

Compared to the Mclaren team where Lewis Hamilton is much more stronger than Heikki Kovalainen, this is an obvious disadvantage to Ferrari and only time will tell if the driver equality strategy will work for Ferrari.

BMW-Sauber started this season with a very clear objective, that is to get their first win. Hence, they came out with a very revolutionary car, in terms of design, compared to the previous season. And guess what, they got the win they wanted in the Canadian GP with Robert Kubica. As a Malaysian, it feels quite good knowing that Petronas is now sponsoring a GP-winning team.

And it’s all thanks to the consistency of their Polish driver, Kubica. He was scoring consistently in 7 of the first 8 races and got that win in Canada not because he had the fastest car but because he was able to keep up and push when needed. It all paid off when Hamilton “conveniently” took Raikkonen out at the pitlane. I would dare wager that if you had put Robert Kubica in one of the top two teams in the beginning of the season, he would be miles ahead in terms of points by now, such is the rate of mistakes being made by the Ferrari and Mclaren drivers this season.

Having said that, BMW-Sauber is definitely looking towards the 2009 season as their pace has slowed down considerably since the win and teams like Toyota, Renault and Red Bull seemed to have overtaken them in terms of speed. I guess the team feels that with the raft of changes in the 2009 rules, it is better to concentrate their development resources in the new car and they know they can’t be caught for third place in the constructors’ championship. All these strategies are being carefully and meticulously planned and executed by team boss and mastermind, Mario Theissen.

I really can’t wait for the 2009 season to begin where for sure, we will definitely see much better racing from the teams but for now, let us sit back, relax and enjoy as the F1 circus descends on Valencia next weekend.