Felipe Massa burst onto the Formula One scene as a sensationally fast, yet erratic and occasionally wild rookie. He grew to be a genuine frontrunner, and was even a world champion for all of a handful of seconds in that famous 2008 showdown with Lewis Hamilton. Even without that title, he entered the 2017 season with a proud record of 11 Grand Prix wins, 16 poles and 41 podiums - but Massa’s story is measured in far more than just statistics.
Victim of a freak accident in 2009 that knocked him unconscious and put his career and life in jeopardy, he demonstrated remarkable courage to clamber back into an F1 cockpit just 11 weeks later. Already the first Brazilian to win on home soil since Ayrton Senna, his spirit and determination - and his dignity in both triumph and defeat - helped win the hearts not just of a nation, but of the watching world. As a driver, and as a man, he ranks among the very highest.
Born in Sao Paulo in 1981, Felipe Massa spent his formative years racing karts in his native Brazil. He switched to single-seaters in 1998, making his debut in the Brazilian Formula Chevrolet Championship and winning the series the following year. Then came a move to Europe and victories in both the 2000 Italian and European Formula Renault championships. He followed that up by winning the Euro F3000 title in 2001, with six wins from eight races. He also found time for the occasional World Touring Car Championship appearance and earned himself his first Formula One tests with the Swiss-based Sauber team, which in turn landed him a race drive for 2002.
Massa made his Grand Prix debut in Melbourne, qualifying inside the top ten, before crashing out in a multi-car pile-up on the first lap. Just one race later, though, he took his first championship point with sixth place in Malaysia. He would score another three that season, garnering a reputation for being quick, if rather erratic. At the end of the year he followed Peter Sauber’s advice and opted to spend the following season testing for the team’s engine suppliers, Ferrari. It would prove to be an astute long-term career move...