Masa still dogged by team orders to give way

Masa still dogged by team orders to give way

Felipe Massa says he doesn't believe in ghosts but on the 52nd lap of Sunday's Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, he could have been forgiven for thinking that he heard one that has been haunting him since the German GP at Hockenheim four years ago.

"Felipe, Valtteri is faster than you. Don't hold him up."

That was the message relayed to the cockpit of his Williams Martini FW36 as team-mate Valtteri Bottas came storming up behind him.

It's the message every driver secretly dreads. The first time Massa heard it was in that German GP in 2010.

Then, a year since the horrible accident in Hungary which might have killed him, when a suspension spring from Rubens Barrichello's Brawn hit him on the head, the Brazilian seemed set for a fairy-tale return to Victory Lane.

Then, he was told to get out of team-mate Fernando Alonso's way and let the Spaniard win. At the time, it didn't matter that Alonso had not been able to overtake him - he had the better chance of winning the title, so he was the favoured son.

"Fernando is quicker than you," his engineer Rob Smedley was instructed to tell him. Massa ignored the message.

"Fernando is quicker than you," Smedley repeated.

Then, at the team management's behest, Smedley was instructed to add a key extra word in case it hadn't been clear to Massa precisely for whom the message was intended.

"Felipe, Fernando is quicker than you."

That day was a turning point in Massa's career. For the first time since he joined Ferrari in 2006, racing against Michael Schumacher, it was being made clear to him that he was the No. 2 driver.

For a man who had beaten both Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen, and for 38 seconds seemed to have won the 2008 world championship - until Lewis Hamilton overtook Sebastian Vettel in the dying seconds to finish fifth in the season's last race and take the title instead - it was a bitter pill.

Now, reborn by his switch to Williams, he was hearing that ghost again.

Early in the race, Williams had resisted Bottas' request to move Massa over as they both chased Jenson Button's slower McLaren. Now the Finn was given the all-clear to pass him so that on tyres that were slightly fresher - hence his superior pace - he could challenge Button.

"Valtteri, you are faster - overtake."

Massa, however, resisted and, instead of perhaps taking sixth and seventh places and 14 points, the Williams duo stayed behind Button and took 10 for seventh and eighth.

"Felipe did not do what we would have preferred him to do," Williams engineer Rod Nelson admitted diplomatically, before revealing that the plan had been to reverse the positions again before the finish, had Bottas also been unable to pass Button.

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