SEPTEMBER 18, 2002

A sensible move from Sauber

Sauber is battling for fourth place in the FIA Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship and if Felipe Massa has to start 10 places behind where he qualifies there is not much point in him being there. Sauber has realised this and dropping Massa makes sense.

In recent months Sauber has been making some odd decisions. Felipe Massa has been dropped despite the fact that he has showed that he is quick. As the season has gone on he has been quicker than Nick Heidfeld - more often than not. But Massa has had a few crashes and when Peter Sauber was faced by the decision whether to take Massa or Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber chose Frentzen. Perhaps a better course of action would have been to ditch Heidfeld and go with Frentzen and Massa.

But what is done is done. Massa is a very obvious talent. He needs to calm down and refine his skills but he has skills nonetheless and as many team has found out over the years you cannot create speed, you can only hone it. If speed is not there it will never be there.

In normal circumstances Massa would have stayed on for the rest of the year but at Monza an unusual thing happened. Massa, rightly or wrongly, was given a new penalty which means that he has to start at the United States Grand Prix from 10 places back from where he qualifies. In other words, Massa's involvement at Indianapolis is a waste of time. The penalty is not transferrable to another driver and applies only for Indianapolis and so Sauber has, quite logically, concluded that the best thing to do is to drop Massa for the one event because it is keen to score some more points in the Constructors' Championship and Massa will not be able to do that so it is better for the team to put in another driver. The punishment has therefore turned into a one-race ban although, as the FIA has pointed out, that is up to the team.

It may seem harsh but one cannot argue with Sauber's logic.