Exclusive interview with Ferraris Felipe Massa 07 Sep 2007
This time last year Ferraris Felipe Massa was seen as Michael Schumachers understudy. This weekend he goes into Ferraris home race as their leading title contender. So what has changed for the Brazilian over the last 12 months?
We caught up with the Brazilian at Monza to find out how he feels his career has progressed in that time - and to discover his aspirations for the Italian Grand Prix and the 2007 drivers title
Q: Ferrari CEO Jean Todt recently said that for him the best time during a race weekend was the moment spent on the podium after a win. Is yours the same?
Felipe Massa: Yes, as long as its on the top step!
Q: Your victory at last seasons Turkish Grand Prix kicked off your career. What has been the most significant event since?
FM: I dont know if its right to say the Turkish Grand Prix kicked off my career. More likely it was down to having for the first time a winning car in the shape of my Ferrari. Race after race last year I raised my game and I grew as a driver thanks to help from the team and also from Michael. In Istanbul, all the pieces fell into place and led to pole on Saturday and the win on Sunday. On top of that, the fact I knew that I would be racing for the Reds for at least another year was another plus point and one less thing to worry about. Interlagos was the scene of another very emotional moment, as winning in front of the Brazilian crowd was simply amazing. But it is always difficult to single out one moment as being better than the rest - the win in Bahrain after a week of politicking, the one in Spain or my second consecutive one in Turkey?
Q: The Hungarian Grand Prix was a big disappointment for you after the refueling error in qualifying. What did you do in the summer break to put that race behind you?
FM: There is no point in crying over spilt milk. The team understood that the mistake was made in qualifying and has since worked on it. I made the most of the break to recharge my batteries - President Montezemolo has set us an ambitious target and we have to give our all in order to succeed!
Q: After all that frustration, it must have made the win in Istanbul even sweeter. Did you expect to bounce back so strongly?
FM: We knew we would be competitive in Istanbul and events proved that to be the case. All the same, it was a very closely-contested weekend because our rivals are really strong, as indeed they will be for the rest of the season.
Q: With Michael fighting for the championship last year, you were clearly number two. Has it felt liberating this season to be equal and have your own run at the title? FM: At Ferrari, no one has a divine right to be number one, but the results can establish a pecking order. Last year, Michael was fighting for the title and of course, I added my support to give him the best possible chance to win. This year
Kimi (Raikkonen) and I started off as equals and, after 12 races, there is only one point between us. Therefore, for both of us, what matters most is whatever is in the best interests of Ferrari.
Q: After 12 races we have seen four drivers grabbing three wins apiece and all are now within 16 points in the title battle. Do you think you could still secure the championship for yourself?
FM: The championship is very tight, with mistakes and reliability making the difference. When it comes down to these parameters, McLaren and its drivers have done better than we have, but we can still turn it around as long as we dont make any more mistakes.
Q: Having two winning drivers in a team can be either a blessing or a curse. Ferrari looks to be working well with their two winning drivers. How would you describe your relationship with Kimi?
FM: There is a great deal of respect between me and Kimi, both on and off the track. In terms of our character, we are different, as you would expect given our backgrounds, but our relationship is very professional and honest.
Q: Monza is always a special place for Ferrari. With your Turkish win as motivation, what are your expectations for the race?
FM: Yes, Monza is a special race for Ferrari. Racing in front of our fans and the employees of the Gestione Sportiva, who have their own grandstand, is an extra boost. And then, this is a track that is part of Formula One history with an extraordinary appeal. It would be good to get a second consecutive win after Istanbul and another one-two!