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Exclusive interview - Felipe Massa on life at Williams

30 Jan 2014

Having spent the last eight seasons wearing the red of Ferrari, it has been somewhat strange to see Felipe Massa sporting the blue of new team Williams in pre-season testing. But, as the 32-year-old Brazilian tells us in this exclusive interview, he’s relishing his move from Maranello to Grove, and sees no reason why he can’t help the nine-time constructors’ champions move back to the sharp end of the grid…

Q: Felipe, after so many years at Ferrari, how is the transition to the completely new environment that is the Williams team?

Felipe Massa: Ha, for sure it is a big change. The way of ‘being’ is very different. The British people are very different compared to the Italians. Even though you have many different nationalities at Ferrari, the ways things are done is genuinely Italian - very Latin, very emotional. (laughs) You will never see an Italian talk without using his hands, whereas the British are very precise and correct in everything. I am very happy for that change as the way Williams is embracing me is very nice. I think I have chosen the right time for it as we are heading into a new area in Formula One and that always goes well with a personal change.

Q: How about Maranello versus Grove?

FM: Again, there’s huge difference. Both factories are pretty much in the middle of nowhere and the towns very much revolve around the team headquarters. But then of course in Maranello you have all the restaurants and coffee shops that add to the quality of life. And I have to be honest, I don’t know Grove that much right now.

Q: Can you attach some attributes to Ferrari and Williams?

FM: Ferrari: emotional. Williams: straight. A small problem at Ferrari is a big problem; at Williams it keeps its size. The way to accept problems is different with English people.

Q: You come from a team with a glorious history and have joined a team with a glorious past but a difficult present. What are your expectations?

FM: Williams have everything within the team to come back. They have a sophisticated factory, they have the best wind tunnel, they have very good people - they have everything to be successful again, and that is the key factor number one. The second is to make it work. You have all the right ingredients - now bake the cake! The team is ready. It is not enough to bring in a new driver and expect that this will change the situation - it is an effort that all must be willing to make together. Williams have ramped up their crew with a number of excellent new people for all departments and that is very important if you want to head back to the road of success.

Q: Have you transformed into a goody two-shoes who wants to push an ailing team back to glory?

FM: Sure. I will do everything I can to help the team to be competitive again, because that is also what I want. The best thing that can happen to me right now is to help to make the team competitive again.

Q: Is your main value to Williams that you know how a successful team works?

FM: Yes, but it’s not only me.

Q: And you will reveal all of Ferrari’s secrets of success?

FM: I will tell them everything I know!

Q: You were champion for a matter of seconds back in 2008 and have been chasing that success ever since. Have you abandoned the idea of ever winning the title by joining Williams?

FM: Never. When I do that I will stop being in Formula One. When you give up your hunger for success you are not racing full heartedly any more. Just to be there, that is not my style. I want to win races again. And Williams wants the same and that is where our lines meet: Williams is missing victories, and I am missing victories, so that should be a good basis to start from.

Q: You have been the team mate of two very dominant drivers - Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. Now, with your experience, you are effectively in the role of ‘top dog’. How are you going about that new experience?

FM: I am ready for that, ready for being a kind of leader in the team. I think Valterri (Bottas) and I can do a good job together. He is young and very talented, even if he didn’t have the right car to show more in his rookie season. Together we can make a lot of positives for the team.

Q: Can you talk us through your winter, from your departure from Maranello to this first test in Jerez?

FM: I’ve been many, many times to the Williams factory: to meet the engineers, to see how they work, what their procedures are - creating human closeness. I started to bring my experience to the new car - from what I knew from Ferrari about the new rules.

Q: This season you’ll use Mercedes’ new power unit. How do you expect that to be?

FM: Guess what: this will be the first time in my Formula One career that I will drive a car powered by something other than a Ferrari engine. I am very much looking forward to the Mercedes engine -the way Mercedes is working is unbelievable. I am very happy that Williams has Mercedes as its engine supplier - that will make a lot of difference to us becoming competitive again.

Q: Was the power unit supplier one of the main reasons you chose to join Williams?

FM: It was one of the reasons. Another reason was that from all the options I had, Williams was the only team that was bringing new people in - all the other teams I was talking to were losing people. That convinced me that Williams is doing everything to become competitive again. Take for example Lotus: they are losing many engineers, and that shows that the situation is not so easy. Williams is investing - the other team is not investing. Williams have won multiple championships before. They know how to do it - we now have to do it again.

Q: What are your personal goals for the new season?

FM: Honestly? For the moment I cannot say. Everything is so new. Ask me at the last test in Bahrain.

Q: You’re racing with the number 19 on your car this season. Why did you choose that number?

FM: I love 19. I’ve used it before and it always brought me luck. When it was not possible to use 19, I switched to 91. My number was always 19. I won a number of championships with that number - and I hope it does the trick again!