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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
15/08/2013

 

Biography

 

Felipe began his racing career in karts at the age of nine, competing in national and international championships for seven years.

He won the Italian and European Formula Renault championship in 2000, before progressing to the Formula 3000 Euro-Series the following year. He won the championship after winning six of the eight races, and was soon behind the wheel of the Sauber C20 testing at Mugello.

Having impressed the Swiss team with his feedback and speed, Massa was signed for the 2002 season, the twenty-year-old making his Formula One debut as partner to Nick Heidfeld.

Depending on how you looked at it, Felipe Massa was either the biggest revelation of 2002 or the biggest disappointment. Ever since Kimi Raikkonen, another Sauber discovery, came into F1, there has been concern within the sport that some of the youngsters coming in haven't served the appropriate 'apprenticeship'. Certainly, some of Felipe's performances in 2002 gave such critics some useful ammunition.

Basically the Brazilian, though talented, was just a little too wild, getting into all manner of incidents, many of them unnecessary. At one race he span so many times that he admitted to giving himself a headache. As the season went on it was clear that he was getting on the nerves of his rivals, his team-mate, and, more importantly, his boss. Therefore it wasn't too surprising when Sauber decided to drop him in favour of Heinz-Harald Frentzen for 2003.

Sauber was keen to retain Felipe as test driver but the Brazilian wanted to race. As the number of vacant seats diminished it looked as though the Brazilian was out of luck, then suddenly he was being linked with the second seat at Jordan. However just as it seemed the deal was done, it all fell through and Ralph Firman took the final 'free' seat.

Then, twenty-four-hours before Ferrari was due to launch its 2003 contender, the Italian team revealed it had signed Felipe as test driver, somehow nobody seemed surprised. The Brazilian saw regular action throughout the year and was acknowledged by the Scuderia as having made a major contribution to its fifth successive Constructors' Championship and Michael Schumacher's record sixth title.

Throughout the year there were rumours regarding Felipe's F1 future. Some had him replacing Rubens Barrichello while the more fanciful had him taking Michael Schumacher's place should the German have opted to retire.

Ahead of the Japanese GP Sauber finally confirmed what many had believed all along, namely that Massa was returning to the Swiss team where his F1 adventure had begun, to link up with Giancarlo Fisichella.

Although the year with Ferrari appeared to have smoothed away some of the rough edges, it was clear that Felipe still had a lot to learn. Admittedly the 'mistake-count' was down but the Brazilian still appeared to be 'on the edge' a little too often. As the season progressed however, Felipe appeared to re-discover himself, possibly the result of realising that he was constantly being outshone by his teammate.

At Monza he gave a strong performance, though the loss of a front wing following a collision with Nick Heidfeld saw him finish a lap down, while at Interlagos he was again on tremendous form.

In 2005, Felipe remained at Sauber, where he was to be partnered by Jacques Villeneuve, in what (on paper) was clearly one of the most tantalizing partnerships on the grid.

In the first few races, the Brazilian out-classed the former world Champion, to such an extent that certain sections of the (British) media were claiming that the Canadian might not see out the season, possibly to be replaced by Anthony Davidson, who according to one magazine was (seemingly) having seat fittings on a daily basis.

The truth is that other than the fact that the C24 was a poor car, Villeneuve was hindered by set-up problems, with the team refusing to allow the Canadian to have his own way. However, once the team relented, and the car was set-up to his liking, Villeneuve's performances improved.

Nonetheless, this shouldn't take anything away from Massa, who was one of the true 'finds' of 2005. Set-up or no set-up, the fact is that he out-qualified his illustrious teammate thirteen times.

Then there were the drives, particularly his progress through the field in Canada, where he finished fourth, despite the best efforts of Mark Webber.

His average qualifying position was eleventh, which totally flattered the car. Sadly, he was rarely able to convert his grid spots to points finishes, though this was not for want of trying.

The year as test driver with Ferrari did him well, for in 2005 it was clear that the Brazilian had matured, had learned from his mistakes, and basically lost much of the 'wildness'. Therefore, it came as no real surprise when he was called back to Maranello to replace Rubens Barrichello for 2006.

Largely due to Bridgestone's shortcomings, Felipe had a difficult start to the 2006 season, though qualifying second at Bahrain was the best possible way to get his Ferrari career off the ground. That said, in Melbourne, when he crashed in qualifying, then again in the first corner of the race, many wondered if the Brazilian's wild ways were truly behind him.

After Melbourne however, he appeared to settle down, qualifying well and, more importantly, bringing the 248 F1 home in the points.

His first podium came at the Nurburgring, where he finished third, followed by further visits in America, France and Germany. Then came Istanbul. The Brazilian took pole, the first of his F1 career, and managed to convert this into his maiden Grand Prix win, even though everyone was waiting for Ferrari to 'make the call' forcing the youngster to give way to his teammate.

There was another win in Brazil, the first time a 'local' had won since Ayrton Senna in 1993, once again the youngster converting pole position to race victory. It was a faultless drive one which would have had Ayrton smiling.

The win was enough to give Felipe third place in the Drivers' Championship, edging out Giancarlo Fisichella.

Though there were moments when we wondered whether Felipe had truly changed his ways, Interlagos seemed to dispel the fears, it was a perfect performance.

Ahead of the 2007 season, it was widely speculated, though naturally denied by the team, that there might be a certain amount of favouritism towards Felipe within Ferrari, what with Jean Todt's son Nicholas being the Brazilian's manager. However, the truth is that the Maranello outfit treated both men equally and nobody, least of all the drivers, could have any complaints.

The situation wasn't helped when Raikkonen got his season off to a winning start in Melbourne, while Felipe, who suffered a gearbox problem in qualifying, was subsequently demoted to the back of the grid as a result of an engine change. While the Finn sprayed the Champagne on the Melbourne podium, Felipe had to console himself with sixth place.

Three weeks later, Felipe appeared set to make up for the misery of Melbourne when he took a convincing pole at Sepang, however, a dreadful start saw him lose out to both Alonso and Hamilton, ending the day fifth and already losing ground in the Drivers' Championship.

In Bahrain and Spain however, things were altogether different, with Felipe taking two strong wins, followed by podium finishes in four of the next six races. Unfortunately, disqualification from the incident-filled Canadian GP - along with Fisichella he was found to have exited the pits whilst the pitlane was closed - cost him another possible podium.

Another error at Silverstone - he stalled on the grid - came at the time Raikkonen was finding his winning ways again, whilst a refuelling farce in qualifying in Hungary was to cost him dear, the Brazilian struggling next day to finish thirteenth.

Although he enjoyed victory in Turkey, retirement at Monza - his car suffering at the hands of the unforgiving kerbs - appeared to signal the end of his championship bid. Any real hope of a late title assault was finally killed off by a tyre error in Japan, which resulted in an extra pit stop and Felipe was lucky salvage three points for sixth.

At season end, Felipe finished fourth, while his teammate staged an amazing comeback to steal the title at the eleventh hour.

Yes, Felipe made mistakes, some of them almost unforgivable for a driver of his experience, however, his team also screwed up, not only in terms of reliability but also in terms of doing the job well.

Even though his teammate was defending the title in 2008, Ferrari promised that there would be no favouritism. With this in mind, we wrote ahead of the new season that "providing Felipe and his team have learned from their lessons it could be an exciting year with the little guy from Sao Paulo thus giving Brazil its first title since Ayrton Senna in 1991". How right we almost were.

Sadly however, while Felipe upped his game, and how, his team continued to let him down, both in terms of reliability, strategy and in some cases downright stupidity.

His season got off to the worst possible start in Melbourne. Having qualified fourth, he span off at the first corner, and though able to resume he subsequently collided with David Coulthard before suffering an engine failure later in the race.

A couple of weeks later in Malaysia, Felipe took pole, however, despite leading for the first part of the race he was overtaken by his teammate during the first round of pit stops. He was chasing Raikkonen, and still in contention for the win when he spun off on lap 31.

Then began a series of strong results which saw the Brazilian take three wins, scoring podium finishes in five of six races.

While Silverstone was a debacle, Felipe seemingly falling to pieces, spinning so many times it was impossible to keep count, he was cruelly robbed of a fine win in Hungary when his engine failed three laps from the end.

Earlier in the race in Hungary, we had seen Felipe make an audacious move, going around the outside of Hamilton in the first corner to take the lead. It was a move that typified the 'new improved' Massa, a man who finally appeared to be a genuine title contender.

An unconvincing drive in Germany was followed by an excellent win in the inaugural Grand Prix on the streets of Valencia. This was followed by victory in Belgium, albeit a win by default - default of a controversial decision by the Race Stewards - which left the Brazilian trailing Hamilton by just 2 points.

An uninspired drive, not to mention poor strategy, saw him finish 6th in Italy, while he had every right to feel aggrieved in Singapore where a catalogue of errors by his team robbed him of certain victory and possibly the title.

There was further controversy in Japan when, having struggled to qualify fifth, he collided with Hamilton, the Englishman having previously been involved in an incident with Raikkonen. The Brazilian received a drive-through penalty and it was only a gutsy determined drive - plus another odd decision from the Race Stewards who penalized Sebastien Bourdais for what appeared a legitimate move - that allowed the Brazilian to pick up two vital points.

China was a strange weekend for the championship hopeful, other than obvious tyre issues the Brazilian appeared to be 'off the boil'. Nonetheless, Raikkonen - having a good weekend - 'yielded' second place to his teammate in the closing stages, thereby keeping his championship dream alive, but only just.

Felipe headed to Brazil knowing exactly what he had to do, and he did it. What happened that incredible afternoon has passed into Formula One, indeed sporting, folklore.

Ignoring the total effort that Felipe put into his entire race weekend, the other thing that stands out is his dignity having won and lost the crown in a matter of moments. One shudders to think how some previous 'stars' might have handled the situation.

The history books will show that Felipe finished second in the 2008 Formula One World Championship, beaten by the youngest driver ever to lift the crown, the first black F1 world champion. However, Felipe's performance and dignity that damp afternoon must never be forgotten.

While he lost the title, he won the respect of race fans who finally saw that the boy had become a man, that finally Brazil had a driver fully capable of winning the title. Bad luck, a few moments of silliness, poor reliability and poor strategy cost Felipe dearly.

Going into 2009, providing Ferrari was able to get its act together, there was no reason why Felipe would not be able to pick up where he left off at the end of 2008. Sadly however, the Maranello outfit was not up to the challenge. The raft of new rules and the fact that the team had taken both title fights down to the wire the previous season left it struggling. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, the Ferrari F60 was a dog.

Caught out by the double diffuser saga it was not until Barcelona that Ferrari had its own version (of sorts) on the car. The Italian outfit worked flat-out in its efforts to make the car competitive yet once again it was the failure to generate heat into the front tyres quickly enough that caused the team problems, particularly in qualifying.

After three races the Italian team had failed to score a single point with Felipe's best result being ninth in the Monsoon like conditions of Malaysia.

The upgrades in Barcelona saw Felipe qualify fourth and while he looked set to finish third the following day a fuel display error led to the Brazilian easing off and subsequently finishing sixth.

Monaco saw the team introduce further upgrades and Felipe responded by taking fourth and fastest lap. Indeed, other than problems with traffic, the Brazilian might well have taken third place from countryman Rubens Barrichello.

Points finishes in the next three races, including a highly impressive podium in Germany, saw Felipe move up to fifth in the standings, albeit 46 points behind championship leader Jenson Button, however, a freak incident during qualifying for the Hungarian GP brought the Brazilian's season to an abrupt end.

During Q2, a suspension spring on Barrichello's Brawn became dislodged and fell from the Brazilian's car. In a million-to-one incident the spring bounced back along the track eventually hitting Massa - who was travelling at an estimated 160 mph towards it - on his helmet breaking the visor and hitting him just above his left eye. Momentarily stunned by the impact Felipe crashed head first into a tyre barrier.

Only one week earlier, Henry Surtees, son of 1964 world champion John Surtees, had died in a similarly freak accident during an F2 race at Brands Hatch. Bearing this in mind we awaited news of Felipe's progress fearing that at the very least the Ferrari driver had suffered damage to his skull.

While his injuries were described as "life threatening", sterling work by surgeons at the AEK hospital in Budapest soon saw Felipe on the road to recovery. At first there was talk of a return to the cockpit by the end of the season, possibly an emotional return at Interlagos. However, eventually it was decided that Felipe should save himself for the coming season.

In early October, having been examined by the FIA's medical delegate in Paris, Felipe was given the all clear and subsequently headed to Interlagos, not to drive but to wave the chequered flag at the end of the penultimate race of the season.

In December he completed two days of running in a 2007 car at Mugello having won the Granja Viana 500 Kart race in partnership with Lucas di Grassi a couple of days earlier. Although Felipe completed the Mugello test without any noticeable problems many believed any after effects from Hungary would only be apparent once the season got underway and he was racing in anger.

Of course, other than the after effects from his accident, the other topic of conversation going into 2010 wasn't so much concern as to whether Ferrari could produce a car capable of challenging for wins but the fact that Felipe now had Fernando Alonso as a teammate, a man who, to put it nicely, has history.

His season got off to a perfect start, the Brazilian following his teammate home to give Ferrari its first 1-2 since France 2008, despite having been told to watch his temperature ands conserve fuel for the last 20-odd laps of the race.

In Australia, having just been appointed a director of the GPDA, Felipe qualified third subsequently keeping out of trouble and bringing his Ferrari home in a respectable third ahead of his teammate. In Malaysia, like many others, Ferrari was caught out by the changeable weather conditions during qualifying, neither driver making it into Q3. Felipe, starting from twenty-first on the grid, drove a storming race, finishing seventh, his teammate dropping out with engine problems.

While the next couple of races were disappointing, there was a revival of sorts in Monaco, Felipe finishing fourth, once again out-scoring his teammate, but then began a series of performances that could only be described as lacklustre. Three straight non-points finishes led to speculation that the Brazilian might be past his best, that he hadn't recovered from his accident, that he couldn't deal with his new teammate.

Things changed in Germany however, and it looked as though the popular Brazilian was about to take his first win since that epic day at Interlagos in 2008. However, what began as Alonso's suggestion that he was quicker than the Brazilian was to lead to another black day in Ferrari history, a decision that finished Felipe as far as the 2010 season was concerned.

The Spaniard suggested over the team radio that he was much quicker than his teammate - a fact not borne out by the stopwatch - leaving the Italian team to do some rapid behind the scenes thinking. Shortly afterwards, Felipe's engineer Rob Smedley all but ordered the Brazilian to allow his teammate through, subsequently apologising for having given the command.

Felipe added another 18 points to his tally that day, but in doing so became another Maranello fall guy. Once again the Italian team found itself lambasted by the media and hauled before the FIA, though, other than a $100,000 fine imposed straight after the race there was no further punishment.

As Ferrari improved the car, there followed a string of respectable results, but Felipe was clearly no longer the man he once was. He now looked a shadow of the man we'd seen in Brazil 2008, he somehow looked broken.

In Japan his race was over before it had begun, the F10 colliding with the Force India of Tonio Liuzzi, while a determined effort in Korea was followed by an atypical performance in Brazil. He ended the season with another unconvincing drive in Abu Dhabi, like his teammate, bogged down in traffic.

To everyone's surprise, having signed an extension of his contract with the team mid-summer, Felipe said he was staying, despite widespread speculation, including here on Pitpass, that he would leave, the bitter taste of Hockenheim still in his mouth.

To add insult to injury, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who only a year earlier had praised the little Brazilian, laid into Felipe, claiming that at times he thought he had sent his brother to race in his place.

Retained for 2011 it would be fair to say that even his biggest fans will have begun to lose patience with Felipe over the course of the season. Fact is, there were times when he really looked as though he no longer cared. Now a clear number two, the little Brazilian's cause wasn't helped by the fact that the F150 Italia wasn't very good... not to mention a certain McLaren driver's insistence on getting up close and personal on several occasions over the course of the season.

Qualifying eighth in Melbourne, Felipe managed to get ahead of his teammate and several other drivers at the start, running as high as fifth. A lack of pace however, saw him drop down the field to ninth, eventually gaining two places when the Sauber duo were disqualified.

Malaysia saw a better performance. Felipe, who had qualified seventh, showed improved race pace, particularly on the soft Pirelli tyres. Another excellent start saw him running ahead of Alonso until his first pit-stop when a problem saw him lose time and positions. Nonetheless, he finished ahead of Alonso in fifth.

In China, Felipe looked to be challenging for the win, before settling for sixth as the team's two-stop strategy proved wrong for the conditions. Despite this, he finished over fifteen seconds ahead of Alonso.

In Monaco, Felipe crashed in the tunnel while battling with Hamilton, the first in a string of incidents that were to overshadow the season, while in Canada he overtook Kamui Kobayashi just before the chequered flag to finish sixth.

Three fifth places followed in Valencia, Silverstone and Germany, the British race seeing Felipe battling Hamilton for fourth in the final stages of the race.

In Belgium, Felipe out-qualified Alonso for only the second time in 2011, but ultimately could only manage eighth in the race. In Italy, the Brazilian took another sixth after being clouted by Mark Webber in the opening stages of the race.

Felipe had his third close encounter of the season with Hamilton in Singapore, when the McLaren driver attempted to pass the Ferrari. Hamilton punctured Felipe's right-rear tyre with his front wing, an incident for which the Englishman received a drive-through penalty. This followed an incident in qualifying when Hamilton lunged down the Brazilian's inside, attempting to pass on an out-lap, which led the Ferrari driver to publicly criticise his English rival.

After the race the two were involved in an incident which was to set the tone for the remainder of the year. The Brazilian approached Hamilton in the post-race TV interview area of the paddock as he was conducting an interview. Patting the McLaren driver on the shoulder, Felipe said: "Good job, well done." The Englishman spun around and warned the Ferrari driver not to touch him.

It was subsequently reported that during the race, Massa's engineer Rob Smedley had sent a radio message urging the Brazilian to; "hold Hamilton as much as we can. Destroy his race as much as we can." The team later claimed that the message was taken out of context.

The pair collided again in Japan, Massa damaging his front wing endplate but managing to finish seventh. The Brazilian subsequently called on the FIA to take action against the McLaren driver.

After finishing sixth in Korea, Felipe collided with Hamilton yet again in India, though this time it was the Brazilian who was handed the (drive through) penalty.

At season end, Felipe was sixth in the standings, almost 140 points behind his teammate, out-qualified fifteen times and not a single podium visit to his name.

Retained for a seventh season, Felipe was under intense pressure to perform in 2012, with Luca di Montezemolo once again warning the Brazilian was on borrowed time.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the F2012, Montezemolo admitted that he didn't really care how ugly the car looked as long as it was a winner, a view shared by millions of fans around the world. Sadly it wasn't, something that became quite clear even during the pre-season tests.

Straight out of the box it was clear the F2012 was uncompetitive in terms of pace and handling. While the car was 100 percent reliable - the only retirements of the year due to accidents - despite a determined, year-long development programme, the Italian team was always on the back foot.

In the latter stages of the season, Massa, who at one stage looked set to be dropped - indeed there was internet speculation even during pre-season testing - got his act together and was able to aid his teammate in the fight for the constructors' title. Indeed, in the final couple of races the Brazilian's pace was better, the likeable Brazilian out-performing his illustrious teammate.

In football terms, Felipe's season was one of two-halves, from the lows of Malaysia, China, Bahrain and Spain, to the highs of Japan, Korea, Austin and Brazil, where he worked his way up to second before yielding to his teammate.

Days after his superb performance in Japan, Felipe was able to breathe a little easier when Ferrari - against all expectations - retained him for an eighth season. However, the 42 word statement suggests that decision had more to do with the lack of a suitable replacement than the 31-year-old's impending revival.

While the 2013 car must have the reliability of the F2012 it must be also quick and competitive straight out of the box - though, like Red Bull, the frenzied development of the 2012 car in the fight down to the wire is sure to have hit the team's 2013 programme.

The Italian media is gathering like vultures, and should the team fail once again the reverberations could hit the Maranello outfit from top to bottom, with Felipe almost certainly one of those right in the middle of the crosshairs.

Statistics - at the end of 2012 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 10
Grand Prix: 172
Wins: 11
Poles: 15
Fastest Laps: 14

Best result in 2012: 2nd (Japan)
Best qualifying 2012: 3rd (Italy)
Worst qualifying 2012: 16th (2 times)

2012: Out-qualified Fernando Alonso 3 times
2012: Out-qualified by Fernando Alonso 17 times

2012: Completed 1178 out of 1192 laps (98.8%)
2012: Finished 19 times from 20 starts (95%)

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