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Piquet Jr defends under-fire Massa

Nelson Piquet Jr has defended Felipe Massa after the Ferrari driver allowed Fernando Alonso to win Sunday’s German grand prix.

In the wake of the Hockenheim team orders affair, the Brazilian media has been hard on 29-year-old Massa, who according to some publications displayed a lack of courage on the anniversary of his 2009 crash.

Heavily criticised last year was Piquet, who argued he was ordered by Flavio Briatore to deliberately crash his Renault during the 2008 Singapore grand prix in order to bring out the safety car and boost Alonso’s chances of winning.

“Talk is cheap and it’s easy to criticise,” Piquet, now driving in NASCAR’s lower-tier truck series, is quoted by Globo Esporte.

“But the hole is deeper than you think.”

Indeed, Massa has been quoted in Brazil as saying “many drivers” would have acted similarly in his shoes at Hockenheim, and after leaving Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello revealed that he would have lost his job had he not moved over for Michael Schumacher in 2002.

Mika Salo subbed for an injured Schumacher at Ferrari in 1999, and he tells Finland’s Turun Sanomat that “they made it clear that if Eddie (Irvine) is behind me, my job is to give space”.

At that year’s German grand prix, Salo was leading the race.

“I looked in the mirrors and then I saw that Eddie overtook Frentzen.  After a couple of seconds Ross Brawn came on the radio and said Mika, we want you to let Eddie go.

“I think it makes sense that Ferrari sees Alonso with clearly a better chance for the title.  But it could have been managed quite a lot better, especially when the engineer asked Massa if he understood what he had to do,” said Salo.

In his El Pais column, Epsilon Euskadi chief Joan Villadelprat agrees that the team order was a flagrant rule breach.

“Of course, it was very clear.  He (Massa) was left with no choice.  All the fans knew it immediately, although it is possible the World Council will fail to demonstrate it.

“I remember in 2002 that Barrichello received a threat that it would trouble his contract if he did not budge.

“I think the worst damage is not the fine or a penalty, but that the brilliant work on the team and the drivers to catch up to Red Bull was spoiled by unnecessarily unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Ferrari’s errors this year have been too many and too large.  Someone has to take some action, to tell the team leaders that it’s enough.

“And someone should calm down Fernando, so that he doesn’t repeat comments like ‘This is ridiculous’ the first time he tried to pass Massa.

“We’re taking about a double world champion, the best driver in the paddock, a title contender, but on occasion it is necessary to put his brakes on,” added Spaniard Villadelprat.