Ferrari 'like a religion' and that pressure forced Vettel to leave

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Felipe Massa believes the passion for Ferrari is "like a religion", making it unlike any other team on the Formula 1 grid.

The Brazilian drove for the Italian team for eight seasons between 2006 and 2013, winning 11 times and famously just missing out on the world title at his home race in Sao Paulo in 2008.

His final years in red though saw him largely overshadowed by teammate Fernando Alonso, something that highlighted the political nature of Ferrari from within.

But regardless of the ups and downs, Massa admits the simple experience of racing for and being a part of the Scuderia is remarkable.

"Driving for Ferrari is completely different," he told Sky Sports during a special Vodcast on the team.

"Not in the way you work, the way of working is similar in whatever team you go - especially in the top teams, but it's different because it's like a religion."

Indeed, for the Tifosi, the Italian Grand Prix is seen as a pilgrimage each year to cheer on their beloved Ferrari, but Massa's former race engineer Rob Smedley says the expectations demanded by fans is matched by those lucky enough to work at Maranello.

"First of all, it's the standard," he said. "It's not a team where you get a point, a third place, and it's seen as a success.

"It's winning races, and it's winning world championships, that's the measure of success, and it should be for a team of that size. That builds the pressure.

"Even when you're winning, you've still got that pressure," the Briton noted. "In 2004 we probably had the best Formula 1 car ever, but if we weren't one-two on Sunday we would get back at 9am on Monday morning for the debrief and there was a sense that we failed."

If that wasn't enough, Massa also explained the intense scrutiny placed on Ferrari.

"If you're winning there's a massive pressure because you need to keep winning, keep showing and giving the results. But if you're not, there's massive pressure there and the media invent a lot of things as well, things that are just not happening," he said.

"The team has more pressure than all of the other teams because, for whatever reason, the media is always participating more.

"And not only the media, the fans, are really expecting a lot."

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Put all of that together and two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen believes it is why Sebastian Vettel will be leaving Ferrari at the end of 2020.

“His age is not the problem. He’s still a young guy,” he said on the F1 Nation podcast. “I feel that he had a big disappointment at Ferrari and the enjoyment of the teamwork disappeared from Vettel.

“He didn’t enjoy so much any more inside the team because I think he was criticised enormously all of the time.

“When you are in a team, it has to be shared this kind of pressure and criticism. It’s not just for one person.”