Massa defends teenage Stroll after crashes

Felipe Massa has jumped to the defence of his new young F1 teammate, teenager Lance Stroll.

Canadian Stroll, 18, made not one but three significant mistakes in Barcelona last week, the last crash damaging the chassis and ending Williams' run a day early.

But even though Stroll has denied that Massa, 35, is effectively his "mentor", the Brazilian veteran defended the youngster amid criticism.

"It would be worse if we were not running because of problems with our car," Massa told Globo as he sat out the end of last week's test due to Stroll's crash.

He said Stroll crashing due to inexperience is "absolutely part of the game".

"Everyone should calm down, as this was his first experience of the car. The boy is only 18 years old. I've also been 18, I've been through it," he said.

Massa actually made his F1 debut at the age of 21, as at the age of 18 he was still in Brazil's Formula Chevrolet category.

Almost two decades later, Massa is an elder statesman in F1, and assessing the potential pecking order of the 2017 season.

"At the moment, the impression I have is that after Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull we are there, although Renault has grown a lot," he said.

Massa said Ferrari's closeness to Mercedes is a "positive surprise", and agreed with those who think Red Bull was clearly the third force last week.

"I did not see anything very different in their car, as we had imagined, but it's early of course. Let's see what they bring now," he added.

As for McLaren-Honda's situation, Massa said he sympathises with his former Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso.

"Again they have started with difficulties," he said. "I can imagine how Fernando is feeling, it's not easy -- I know him well."

(GMM)

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