Formula 1

Felipe Massa is holding back Williams revival

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There is no doubting 2014 has seen the welcome return of Williams as a force to be reckoned with in Formula 1.

As the team switched to Mercedes engines, their young driver Valtteri Bottas took advantage and really should have scored a podium at the first round in Australia, but since then, as the team have kept developing, the Finn has become the man to lead Williams scoring three brilliant podiums from Austria to Germany and showing us all why he is rated as a potential future champion.

The issue has been during Bottas's run of good results, the opportunities for Williams to capitalise fully on its run of form have been missed as Felipe Massa again fails to live up to expectation.

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Lucky to be around

The Brazilian was somewhat lucky, in my opinion, to remain in F1 after being dropped by Ferrari at the end of last year.

While we knew he was always playing second fiddle to Fernando Alonso while at the Maranello team, the man who so nearly won the 2008 world championship has never been the same since his horrific crash in Hungary five years ago.

Of course the financial backing from Brazil and the experience that Massa brings are helpful to Williams as is his relationship with former race engineer and now Head of Engineering at the Grove-based squad Rob Smedley.

Too many crashes

But as the team finds itself in a battle with Ferrari for third in the Constructors' championship, accidents have blighted Massa's season on too many occasions.

Some were not his fault, such as the first corner collision with Kamui Kobayashi in Australia, but at certain races there has been a case for the Brazilian to answer.

At Silverstone both cars were again caught out by bad timing and poor pace in a wet qualifying, that meant Massa was towards the back of the grid so when Raikkonen had his unfortunate accident on the first lap, Massa was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While at Hockenheim a good grid position, something Massa has been able to achieve at several races with the improved Williams, was also wasted with a needless incident with Kevin Magnussen, albeit where the majority of the blame should be apportioned remains a hot topic.

As does his scary crash with Sergio Perez in the closing laps of the Canadian Grand Prix, a race that maybe Massa should have won.

With the Mexican struggling for grip the pair collided at 180mph as Massa looked to make a move into turn one. Though it appears Perez could have moved into the path of the Williams the question also remains on whether Massa should have given pulled out wider when looking to overtake.

Either way those crashes could have cost the team around 40 points in their championship charge, a figure that would have them battling with Red Bull for 'best of the rest' behind Mercedes rather than being down in fourth.

Lack of race pace

It hasn't just been the four crashes and other non-points scoring finishes, when having a trouble-free race Massa just hasn't had the pace that Bottas has shown.

The best case of this was in Austria where, after taking an excellent pole position, he faded and only a lack of competition behind meant Massa finished fourth, at the same time Bottas was able to keep the Mercedes far more on their toes throughout the race before ultimately taking his first podium in third.

Other examples include China and Bahrain where Bottas scored good points with Massa dropping outside the top 10.

Pressure is on

At the start of the year most thought the rejuvenation of a new team would help see a resurgence from the 33-year-old, instead we are seeing a Ferrari-esque pattern of Massa falling into the shadow of his team-mate.

Currently it is understood the Brazilian has a contract until 2016 with the Williams team but I think the rest of the season could see the pressure increase on the 11-time Grand Prix winner.

Another young Sao Paulista in Felipe Nasr is waiting in the wings at Williams and is impressing in GP2 currently lying second in the standings behind the leader Jolyon Palmer.

Dilemma for Williams

This puts Williams then in an interesting dilemma because they have a driver in Bottas who could easily fit in as a team leader, if he isn't already asserting himself in that role, yet they have Felipe Massa, a driver who was brought in to lead, isn't, but is under contract for two more years.

Then they have another potential star in Nasr waiting as reserve, but who may become frustrated if he sees his chance at a race seat diminishing.

Do they continue developing the car as usual and hope Massa improves? Do they look at ways of perhaps adapting the car better for Massa but risk possibly losing ground? Or do they consider replacing Massa with Nasr and build the team fully around Bottas?

One of the biggest criticisms of Williams this year has been their decision-making at key moments, the remaining eight races of 2014 maybe crucial for Felipe Massa if he doesn't want the team to make another key decision that may be to the detriment of himself.

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