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Youth versus experience at Sauber 26 Sep 2004

Felipe Massa (BRA) Sauber Petronas C23 leads team mate Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Sauber Petronas C23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 26 September 2004

Seventh and eighth place in Shanghai, and the three points they bring, marked another solid performance for Sauber and have helped the Swiss team to consolidate their sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings with two races to go.

But it is still likely that the team will be taking a sense of disappointment away from China with them – it could have been better. Felipe Massa’s brilliant qualifying performance saw his car in fourth place on the grid, with his more experienced team mate Giancarlo Fisichella two places behind in seventh.

And the young Brazilian’s race got off to a brilliant start – he lost a place to Jenson Button into turn one, but then retook it later in the lap and looked to be well on the pace of all but the rapidly-disappearing Barrichello and Raikkonen. Unfortunately though Massa’s enthusiasm was not best suited to the temperamental nature of his Bridgestone tyres, and his car was quickly afflicted by serious understeer after the onset of what looked like graining. Button re-took him, then on lap five team mate Fisichella went past followed by Ralf Schumacher, and Massa steadily dropped down to ninth. He made an early stop on lap 11 for new tyres, emerging all the way down in 17th place.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo Fisichella was displaying the maturity that attracted the Renault team to sign his services for next year – his race performance was a model of consistency. The difference between the two drivers’ styles became clear after the third round of pitstops – from which the Italian veteran emerged just ahead of his hot-headed team mate, positions that they kept until the end of the race.