Racecar drivers are selfish. At least, the
most successful ones outside of endurance
racing are. They have to be. Motorsports is
a team enterprise, but the greats ensure
the group focus is still on them. But what of
the teammate who must know his place?
Take Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso
wasted no time in creating a pecking order
when he joined him at Ferrari in 2010. In
their second race together in Australia,
Alonso spent the second half of the grand
prix stuck behind the Brazilian after an
earlier delay, costing a certain podium and
possible win. A frank meeting at Maranello
followed…Alonso’s management expected,
demanded number one status.
In China, two races later, Alonso passed
Massa in the pit lane, forcing him onto the
grass. In Germany, a year to the day since
Massa almost died in a freak qualifying
accident in Hungary, he heard the infamous
“Fernando is faster than you” radio call and
Ferrari’s number two had to relinquish a win.
Over only 11 races, the relationship had
been defined and Massa toed the party
you’re second best and the battle is lost.
Look at the games Nigel Mansell played
with Williams teammate Riccardo Patrese
to destroy him in 1992 after the pair were
relatively evenly-matched a year earlier.
Or the tricks Alain Prost pulled on Mansell
at Ferrari in ’ 90 to assert himself. But
while a driver like Alonso will take every
opportunity to assert himself within a team,
some don’t have the character to do that.
Nice guys finish second. The reason some
superb drivers never achieve greatness is
the absence of that killer instinct.
Mark Webber is a good counterpoint to
Massa. Alongside Sebastian Vettel at Red
Bull, he’s pulled in more than 70 percent of
the points of his illustrious teammate. He’s
been an excellent number two, bringing Red
Bull constructors’ glory. But he has caused
ructions, tried to assert himself and never
accepted he should be a number two, even
though he believes he’s cast as one.
That’s why the perfect number two
is simply the one who fails to realize that
they’re a number two at all.
Yes, it’s more alchemy than hard science, but what if there was a template for the perfect number two?
line. Perhaps settling for that contributed
to taking the edge off his driving. A more
selfish character would not have allowed it.
Elite athletes require the conviction they’re
the best to maximize their ability. Accept
“It’s important to me,
to honor the sport and the
people who lives around it,
to try to get it right”
(ABOVE) Despite Mark Webber never accepting he
was the number two driver at Red Bull, incidents like
Sebastian Vettel disobeying team orders at the Malaysian
GP with seeming impunity suggested otherwise...
(BELOW) Nigel Mansell and his Williams teammate
Riccardo Patrese were the class of the field in 1992, but
Mansell needed to assert his dominance over the Italian.