The Brazilian on his first top-four Grand Prix finish
In Sundays Belgian Grand Prix Sauber driver Felipe Massa recorded the best result of his Formula One career when he finished fourth, despite two unscheduled pit stops. The young Brazilian looks back on a highly eventful afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps.
Q: What were your feelings when you saw the chequered flag on Sunday?
Felipe Massa: First of all it was a big relief and a fantastic feeling to finish fourth after such a tough race! I was thinking of my grandfather who passed away on Saturday. He was a big fan and never missed watching a race on TV. I believe that he saw this race somewhere, and I am sure he was proud of me, so I dedicate this result to him.
Q: What happened at the start and in the first laps?
FM: My start wasn't very good, so Kimi was able to pull alongside me. I locked the front wheels when I braked for La Source and touched Kimi's car. Then a BAR pushed me from behind. After this, my car had very bad vibrations. I went into the pits after the first lap and the mechanics changed the front nose. But just when I left the crew noticed that the rear wing was damaged too, so I had to come in again. It was really frustrating, but the team did a fantastic job to get me out before the safety car both times. I decided to maintain my concentration and not to give up, although the car was nervous and very difficult to drive. The diffuser was damaged, and I lost downforce particularly in the fast corners.
Q: But you were able to overtake some competitors!
FM: After this bad start to the race I was really in a fighting mood. In the first lap after the safety car went in, I overtook Nick Heidfeld, then Olivier Panis and Zsolt Baumgartner. After this I was able to pass some more competitors with my pit stop strategy. At this point I realised that I could score some points.
Q: And then you had this incredible duel with Juan Pablo Montoya in Eau Rouge!
How did you experience that moment?
FM: I was just accelerating out of La Source when Juan Pablo came out of the pits and we were side by side. He tried to push me to the left and was waiting for me to back off, but I was really not in the mood to do so. So we approached Eau Rouge side by side at 300 kph. Believe me, this was very, very exciting, but I was absolutely determined not to back off. And finally Juan Pablo decided to give up. I have to say this was a memorable moment.
Q: Did you ever think that you might not finish the race because of all the problems you had?
FM: Absolutely. With the incident I had in the first lap you can never be sure that you will make it to the end. The last two laps were the two longest in my whole career.
Q: Fourth place is your best ever finish in your Formula One career. What does it mean to you?
FM: It means a lot to me, especially after all the bad luck I had in the six Grands Prix before. Spa has been the best race of my whole career so far. After gaining some positions in the early stages, I realised that I could achieve something, but finishing fourth, considering all these problems, was simply outstanding. It's fantastic for me and for the team, as well, who did a tremendous job. We really deserved this result. We started the weekend well on Friday, we were extremely competitive in Qualifying on Saturday, although there was heavy rain when Giancarlo and I had to do our laps, so Sunday was the well deserved reward. With the nine points we scored at Spa we are now 18 points ahead of Jaguar and 19 ahead of Toyota and thus in a very good position to defend our sixth place in the constructors' championship.
Q: How do you assess your chances for the next race in Monza?
FM: Monza is a high-speed track and the Sauber Petronas C23 has an excellent top speed, so we should be in good shape and ready to score some more points.
Q: And what are your expectations for the remainder of the season?
FM: On the one hand I set my goals high, but on the other I do not underestimate our competitors either, who are using all their resources to challenge us. However, I also see what a fantastic job Sauber Petronas are doing and the progress we are constantly making. We are getting new parts from the wind tunnel for every race, and they continuously improve the performance of the C23, so I am confident that we will be able to score some very good results before the end of the season. I feel absolutely happy with my situation.