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Down in the dumps

9th April 2011

Well, how would you feel?

You’re a Formula 1 driver doing what you always wanted to do, in a front line team with a thousand or so staff working for your success, millions of dollars in the bank – hell, you’re livin’ the dream.

Except you’re not, because the guy in the car alongside you won’t allow it.

Such is the reality facing Mark Webber and Felipe Massa in F1 2011.

What’s the Red Bull team to do? Their perfect world championship-winning ambassador could have been made for the brand. With his youthful Aryan looks and euro-grunge boy cool, he’s tailor-made manna from heaven for the marketing men of the self-proclaimed Austrian inventors of fun.

His middle-aged conservative Australian team-mate couldn’t be more different.

Two garages down the pit lane all’s not sweetness and light at Ferrari, either. Felipe Massa is a lovely guy, friendly and polite to all, and popular with everyone in the paddock.

All very nice but that doesn’t cut it when the five red lights go out.

Sitting in the other Ferrari F150º is just about the hardest, coolest and most ruthless little so-and-so ever to sit in a race car.

Fernando Alonso is surely no driver’s idea of an ideal team-mate. Just look at his track record. On the rare occasions his Renault colleague Giancarlo Fisichella dared to lead him – Montreal 2005 being a classic case in point – Alonso would aggressively shout his demands for the Italian to acquiesce.

We all know what happened at McLaren in 2007 when upstart F1 rookie Lewis Hamilton bagged nine podiums in the first nine races. Alonso’s rage finally boiled over at the Hungaroring, resulting in qualifying shenanigans and ‘spygate’ revelations.

Once at the Scuderia Fernando wasn’t going to let anyone challenge his number one status and the affable Felipe would simply have to accept the situation.

Both Massa and Webber surely know the score and can almost read the writing on the wall. Mark’s partner and advisor, Ann Neal, is already talking to rival team bosses about the 2012 availability of her man – and paddock rumours of a Red Bull race seat for the energy drink’s new young favourite, Daniel Ricciardo, are gathering pace.

Nagging away at both men will be that haunting feeling of what might have been. Massa savoured championship-winning emotions for 15 seconds or so at Interlagos in 2008 and Webber let the title slip away with just a few races to go in 2010.

F1 2011 will be the longest yet for the two number twos.

Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix by clicking here.

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