Felipe Massa isn't taking sides in this weekend's F1 world championship showdown between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, although he has some sage advice for the German underdog.
Having lost out in the last 400 yards to Hamilton in a similar last round battle on home soil in 2008, Massa knows how heavily the weight of expectation and defeat can hang on a driver, and says that Rosberg can only have one mindset as he attempts to overcome a 17-point deficit – albeit with the advantage of double points at Yas Marina – on Sunday.
“Nico can't think about anything but winning the race!” the Brazilian stressed, “He needs to make sure that he is in front - anything after that doesn't depend on him. The only thing he needs to think about is winning the race and be lucky that something happens to Lewis or maybe, for some reason, that we are there, or some other team is there.
“Psychologically, Nico has less pressure than Lewis because he cannot be scared, cannot have fear for the race. If he has fear, maybe he will lose some tenths. Lewis needs to be more 'gentleman' - sometimes it is not easy for him to be 'gentleman'... Anyway, we need to wait and see what is going to happen….”
Asked if he had a favourite in the fight, Massa insisted that he would be more focused on his own performance come Sunday.
“I don't care who is going to win the championship to be honest” he claimed, “I just care for my race, for fighting for a good position like I had in Brazil. I think perhaps Lewis deserves it a little bit more because he won more races, and maybe did a better championship, but 'deserves' is a little bit different sometimes than the sport. Sometimes, things happen in a different way…”
Williams remains the most likely fly in the Mercedes ointment come raceday, with both Massa and team-mate Valtteri Bottas having mixed it with the similarly-powered W05s this season, and the Brazilian is hopeful of putting up a better fight than he was able to do at Interlagos, where he still finished third on the road.
“I hope we can be there, in a position to put our car in a fight with the Mercedes,” he confirmed, “It will not be easy as we didn't see that much this year, but we'll try everything we can to achieve the best result for us.
“It's the most important race with the double points, and we saw that our car was in good shape at the last race, fighting for the podium for most of the race, so I really hope that we can be up there.
“We improved the car at Suzuka, but not 100 per cent as expected. Not many cars were still bringing new pieces to Suzuka, so maybe we got a bit closer but still not enough to be in front of Mercedes so I hope, at this race, we can be even closer. We'll have to see how the track is, and whether Mercedes can be strong here, but we'll try.
“It's difficult to be sure [why Williams is closer to Mercedes in qualifying than on raceday] but, for sure, in the last race, I had some issues, starting with speeding in pit-lane. Then I had some plastic on my front wing for the first two stints and I was losing a lot of downforce because of that. After I did a very long pit-stop to remove it, my pace was amazing, so I think, in a normal race without all these problems, I would be much closer to the Mercedes - I don't think there would have been as much difference between qualifying and where I was supposed to finish compared to them.”