Felipe Massa issues worrying prediction for Red Bull’s rivals over cost cap penalty

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, in front of the '1' sign. Bahrain, March 2023.

Max Verstappen parks his Red Bull RB19 in front of the '1' sign. Bahrain, March 2023.

For Red Bull their cost cap penalty continues to hang over them in the form of reduced wind tunnel time, though ex-Ferrari driver Felipe Massa is not sure it matters much.

As well as receiving a hefty $7 million fine for a minor breach of the 2021 budget cap, the verdict coming out in the closing stages of the 2022 campaign, Red Bull also saw their permitted time in the wind tunnel for the following 12-month period slashed.

Already the team was going to receive the least of any as the 2022 Constructors’ champs, as per the sliding scale which awards teams more time the further down the standings they finish, but Red Bull also lost a further 10 percent of their time as a result of the cost cap breach.

An utterly dominant start to the F1 2023 campaign though has given Red Bull a very strong base to outrun the impact of these sanctions, the team having won all five grands prix so far, including four one-two finishes.

But as teams now start to roll out upgrade packages for their current challengers, there is the prospect that these restrictions on Red Bull will mean the pack starts to converge, with a scenario having developed where Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari have been left scrapping for the ‘best of the rest’ tag.

Massa though, who raced against Red Bull across his stints with Ferrari and Williams, is not sure this is how the situation will play out.

“It is hard to think that the limitations in the wind tunnel will affect their competitiveness,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

As well as having the clear class of the field with the RB19, Red Bull also has one of the best drivers to be found anywhere on the grid with Max Verstappen leading the way in the Drivers’ Championship as he chases a third World title in as many years.

Massa backs the Dutchman to achieve that and go on to challenge the ultimate record in Formula 1, that being the tally of seven titles shared by Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.

“Max Verstappen has been proving for some time now that he is a phenomenon,” said Massa. “What he is doing, in terms of wins and performances, can be compared to the best moments we have seen of [Ayrton] Senna, Schumacher or Hamilton.

“He is at the same level, plus he is very young and has many years of racing ahead of him, so he can break all records, overtaking Michael and Lewis, if he is willing to continue in Formula 1 for a long time.

“I expect him to win his third title this season and then win many more. If we talk about quality, apart from the perfection of his driving, the coolness that Verstappen manages to maintain in the most important moments is impressive.

“He is always lucid, he knows how to make the right decisions, and he is able to work together with the team like few others. He has a lot of say within the team and everyone follows him and is on his side. The combination of him and Red Bull is still the one to beat this year. The best driver with the fastest car.”

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Also working in Verstappen’s favour, according to Massa, is his complete focus on racing and lack of outside distractions.

If Verstappen is not racing out on the track or putting in the simulator work, then you will probably find him immersed in virtual racing competition. He recently took part in the virtual 24 Hours of Nurburgring.

Such is Verstappen’s love for racing that he would drive 24 hours a day if he could, so says Massa.

“Then there is another winning characteristic of Verstappen,” Massa continued. “Max is only focused on racing, without any other distractions, and this helps him to always be at his best.

“If he could, he would drive for 24 hours a day, on the simulator or on the track.”

Verstappen goes into this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with an advantage of 14 points over team-mate Sergio Perez in the Drivers’ Championship standings.