Wow. Just look at that costume change. Whomever is the designer, so much respect.
Wow. Just look at that costume change. Whomever is the designer, so much respect.
#7 Toyota (Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima) during FP2 at Bahrain International Circuit.
Night-time cars during FP2 at Bahrain International Circuit.
#99 Aston (Senna/Lamy/Stanaway) during FP2 at Bahrain International Circuit.
#95 (Hall/Campbell-Walter/Goethe) and #96 (Nygaard/Poulsen/Thiim) Astons during FP2 at Bahrain International Circuit.
#50 Corvette (Bornhauser/Canal/Rees) and #31 Lotus (Weeda/Rossiter/Liuzzi) during FP2 at Bahrain International Circuit.
The #8 Toyota (Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin) during FP1 at Bahrain.
Massa’s Ferrari career in his own words
Title heartache; team orders controversy; life-threatening injury; lacklustre form: Felipe Massa has experienced it all at Ferrari. On the eve of his final grand prix with the Scuderia, he talks to JONATHAN NOBLE about his ‘incredible’ career
By Jonathan Noble AUTOSPORT group F1 editor
When Felipe Massa pulls on a set of Ferrari overalls for (perhaps) the last time in his career at Interlagos on Sunday, he does so with absolutely no regrets about the path that life at Maranello took him.
He may not have achieved his ultimate ambition of a world championship for more than just those 30 seconds in Brazil five years ago - and his recent form may have been a shadow of the man who took the fight so strongly to team-mates Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen - but there is little he feels he should or could have done differently.
"I’ve had some great times, some difficult times as well, but what I can say is I’m happy," says Massa, reflecting on what will have been a 139-race tenure at F1’s most famous of teams.
"It’s difficult to change anything that happens. For sure you always prefer great results and great things than difficult things, but it’s part of our lives.
"But I learnt a lot with everything I did here at Ferrari and what I can say is that I’m a very happy man. I have zero frustration with my career, I’ve had an incredible career that I never believed I was going to have.
"And I’m looking forward to getting more great results and to fight still for victories and the championship. Otherwise, it’s time to stop.
"I don’t believe it’s time to stop yet - I believe in myself and I believe I can do a lot more and fight a lot more and that’s what I’m looking for."
Massa’s career at Ferrari can be split evenly into two separate spells - a division largely defined by that horrendous accident during qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Forced out for the remainder of that campaign after an errant spring hit him in the face, that Massa was able to even return to top line competition was an achievement in itself.
Yet, ever since coming back, he has been surrounded by questions about whether he is as good as he was before the accident. While his single-lap pace has been up there - and you only need look at his qualifying record this season against Fernando Alonso to see that - it’s his consistency in races that appears to have lost the spark it had before.
But while observers point to the high-level of incidents that have stymied many of his races, Massa is adamant that there is no evidence of his functions having been impaired at all by the Hungary crash.
"I don’t think so," he says. "I think about it many times, I did a lot of exams, I went to many different hospitals, and I did everything.
"All the doctors said I was 100 per cent, and I had zero problems. I would say what’s happening is not just the accident but the fact so many things changed, so I had a lot of problems with tyres - the Bridgestone, which was a very hard tyre, meant I was struggling a lot.
"Many things happened and I don’t think it was the accident to be honest."
There have been other factors that have hampered him too, most notably those infamous days like Germany 2010 and the United States last year where he has had to sacrifice his own ambitions for the good of his team-mate.
"It was very hard, for sure," he explains. "They’re situations that no driver likes, something you really feel - not just me but the team.
"It’s part of life, we cannot go back; it happens. I did so many other things to help the team. In that race though, it was a little bit different."
Worse than losing hard-earned results, though, is the fact that in giving up positions he found himself criticised by fans and the media as someone who rolls over too easily.
"It’s hard because it’s not nice to read something that’s coming from your people in Brazil when they criticise me," he said. "But some things when you’re watching at home are easy to say: you’re not working for a company, for a group.
"And so many of the people who criticise me are doing the same thing in their own company, but nobody sees!
"I don’t feel sorry for what I did because I’m very professional, and I always did everything in the most professional way for the company I work for. It’s better to do that than get in a fight with the company that trusts you."
Yet when people look back on Massa’s career, and for a single moment that perhaps defines him as both a man and racing driver, it will be in how he handled the 2008 season finale at Interlagos that stands out.
Standing up there on the podium that day, having driven his heart out to deliver the win he needed to be champion - only to see it all taken away from him at the final corner when Lewis Hamilton slipped past Timo Glock - Massa’s sportsmanship moved anyone who saw it.
"I never thought about what I would say, it was just natural. I was myself looking to my people, and I tried to be myself."
Looking back now, though, Massa thinks it was not too difficult to do what he did that day. Interestingly, that is in part because he does not think that was the moment the title was lost.
"It was OK, much better than what I expected," he says.
"I couldn’t do anything better than what I did, I didn’t lose the championship in Brazil. For sure if I lost the championship because of me, it would have been much more difficult.
"To be honest, what I did in the last race in 2008, I gave 120 percent. I started on pole position and I won the race and did the quickest lap of the race - I did everything in very difficult pressure.
"I knew the situation was going to be difficult but we did our best. So I’m very happy with what I did in the last race of 2008. I lost the championship in the other races.
"I would say maybe the race where I fear we lost the championship was Singapore. Hungary I was leading the race and I had an engine problem, but this is something which can happen.
"What happened in Singapore was unacceptable. I lost the championship there unfortunately, but it’s like that. So I would say I’m very happy for what I did, and I hope I can be even more happy with what I do from now until the end of my career."
Much has been said about way that Renault cheated at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to deliver Fernando Alonso a surprise victory by getting Nelson Piquet to deliberately crash.
Yet beyond the impact those events had on the sport, Massa knows that valuable points went begging that day, for it was under the safety car - brought out from Piquet’s crash - that his refuelling stop went so badly wrong.
"What happened there was like a situation in football where there’s a match and they pay the referee - it’s the same situation," he says.
"We saw so many championships in football where they saw that they paid the referees and the team who lost went through, but in Formula 1 nothing happens.
"But I will never cry for what’s happened; it did happen and I feel sorry, but we need to think forward."
So how does he feel then about having shared a team with the very man who benefited the most from the Singapore events in 2008, Alonso?
"I don’t think we are here to speak about that! I have no problem with Fernando, who is maybe the strongest team-mate I’ve raced with.
"I’ve always enjoyed what we’ve done together at Ferrari. Maybe I would have preferred to do a little bit better than I did, but we’ve had a good relationship.
"As I say I’m not a frustrated man, I’m a happy man. And I hope he [Alonso] can have a great future, not just him but with Kimi and Ferrari, and myself as well."
Tucked away at the start of that answer is an interesting comment: that Alonso is perhaps the ‘strongest’ team-mate he has ever had. So is he saying that the Spaniard is better than Michael Schumacher?
"I think Fernando is very quick and he’s able to take the best from the car all the time, at most of the tracks," he said. "He’s very intelligent, he understands a lot about the car, and he’s very strong mentally and works well under pressure.
Massa acknowledges though that working alongside Schumacher early in his career was a huge fillip in making him appreciate exactly what he needed to do to succeed in F1.
"It was very important for me, not just to work with Michael but to be the test driver in 2003, working with Michael and Rubens [Barrichello] and trying to understand the way they worked with the engineers and the people in the team.
"And then working with Michael in the same car, it was a big school. It was very important."
Although his Ferrari departure offers the perfect chance to reflect on recent years, like any sportsman he is thinking only of what is to come. His move to Williams was only sealed after this interview took place, but even at the time he was looking forward to being somewhere different.
"I feel happy to change, to start again from zero. I have zero frustration for the position I’m in now.
"But I will definitely miss the human side of Ferrari. It’s really a family, and it will be difficult to see another team like that.
"Everything is like family inside the team - I have a lot of friends here, and it feels so good working with this team and these people. On the professional side I’m happy, it’s the human side I will miss."
And irrespective of what he goes on to achieve in his career, he knows that people will never forget the Felipe Massa/Ferrari years - even if it is just for that crazy afternoon in Brazil 2008.
"I would prefer to be world champion forever, not just for 30 seconds," he smiles. "But maybe I have the most incredible final race of the championship ever - I’m sure people will remember me!"
Little Birds of Britain