MONTREAL (Reuters) - Felipe Massa has started more than 250 races in Formula One while 18-year-old Williams team mate Lance Stroll has made six, and the difference was glaring during qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Brazilian, who despite almost winning the championship in 2008 had never out-qualified a team mate in 14 visits to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, put Williams in a strong points position by qualifying seventh fastest.
His young Canadian team mate will make his home grand prix debut from 17th on the grid.
Only 18, Stroll figures to be part of Formula One’s future while 36-year-old Massa came out of retirement in January after a 16-year career that has produced 11 wins.
Massa was enticed back by Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas, who was signed by Mercedes to replace retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, and help steer Stroll through his Formula One initiation.
While Stroll looked lost during Saturday qualifying, Massa oozed the confidence of a veteran making the most of his experience.
“I think I am doing a good job,” said Massa. “I‘m really happy with how things are going, the performance, working with the team, understanding the car, setups, the balance, it fits the way I like to drive as well.”
Part of Massa’s job is to tutor Stroll and at times step in and defend him as he did on Saturday.
”It’s the first time he’s driving here, it is a tricky track,“ offered Massa. ”I am trying to help him in everything. I’m sure every day he’s getting better.
“Definitely he needs to understand new things, it’s not easy. Maybe Formula One is not so easy as people think.”
Coming from a country where motor racing ranks only second to soccer in terms of sporting passion Massa understands the pressure on a driver when he competes at his home grand prix.
In 2006 and 2008, Massa lived up to those expectations when he won his home race in Sao Paulo.
For Stroll that breakthrough is unlikely to come on Sunday.
The son of one of Canada’s richest men, he has yet to register a point in his debut season and each scoreless race brings more talk that he only secured his place because of a wealthy father.
Stroll has tried to avoid excuses but, after another disappointing qualifying effort, was searching for a reason.
”I’ve never actually been here before and in qualifying one I was 7/10ths off,“ offered Stroll. ”OK, it sounds like a lot but it is a little bit in every corner and I have never been here.
“It’s just tricky, the track is not so easy and today we just missed it a little bit.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin