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Felipe Massa Q&A: We need to keep 2014 momentum

23 Feb 2015

Having swapped Ferrari for Williams, Felipe Massa enjoyed something of a renaissance in 2014, scoring 134 points and three podiums, the last of which came at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Now, after a brief winter break and an encouraging start to testing, the Brazilian is keen to keep up that momentum, as he explains in this exclusive interview…

Q: Felipe, from the outside it seems like Williams have made a very positive start to testing so far. Is that how you see it?
Felipe Massa:
Yeah, I think so. To be honest I’m happy with how the team is working - we’re doing everything we want to do. We’re preparing and trying to learn the car, and there have been no real problems up to now. That’s really positive because we know how important reliability is for the beginning of the season. Performance-wise as well, I think we are there. It’s very difficult to say where we are in relation to the others, but the car is behaving in the direction we expect. I would say everything is going as we expected, and this makes me happy.

Q: As a team, Williams finished with so much momentum last year. Can you feel that carry over after the winter break?
FM:
Yeah, I think so. I didn’t do so well at the beginning of last year because maybe I was not so lucky, but the second part of the season was amazing. We need to follow that, how we finished the season, and try and start this year with the same direction.

Q: You’re one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, so you’ve been through pre-season testing many times. Does that make you slightly more cautious when making judgments about a new car?
FM:
Yes, I think so. You need to keep your feet on the ground. You can’t forget that there are other teams like Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren who have won many races and many championships. You cannot forget that they will be there. So you need to keep your feet on the ground and remember that things can change very quickly from one year to another. You need to keep working and you need to do a fantastic job to be there fighting with these teams. That’s why it’s too early to say (how good the car is) - there are still a lot of things happening and you need to prepare yourself in the best way possible to be in front of the other teams.

Q: You’re into your second season with Williams now. Joining the team from Ferrari almost appeared to give you a new lease of life…
FM:
Oh, definitely it did. When you’re working with a team you need to have their full confidence and full respect. When you are working for a team where it is more important what the other driver is saying, you lose confidence and you’re not working in a proper way. You’re working with details and if you’re missing maybe one detail you lose maybe two- or three-tenths very easily. That’s why you cannot grow if you stay where you are. I think that’s not positive. When you go to a team and they are giving everything you need and doing everything you say to improve, then you need to believe the team is two drivers. They are spending good money to pay the drivers so they need to respect and do what the drivers say. When you have that in the proper way, the results will come, not just for one (driver) but for the team, which is what counts in the end.

Q: A lot of people see Williams being the main challengers to Mercedes this season. What do you make of that suggestion?
FM:
It’s too early to say. We’ve never tried the same configuration at the same time. Maybe you have a team that is doing similar lap times on the same tyres at the same time, but maybe one team is carrying 30 kilos (of fuel) and the other has only 10 - you’re talking about (a potential difference of) six-tenths. It’s impossible to be sure where we are until maybe qualifying in Australia. It will be fantastic if we can fight with Mercedes and with the other teams. I hope we can - that’s what we’re working towards - but it’s too early to answer that question.

Q: You’re heading into your 14th F1 season. Have your objectives changed over the years, or does your aim remain winning races and the championship?
FM:
Oh for sure. If I’m not thinking like that then I would do another thing, I would not keep racing in Formula One. I’m not here just to participate - I’m here to win, I’m here to fight and I’m here to be important. That’s why I’m still here!

Q: Pat Symonds said that in the second half of 2014 in particular, you were a revelation. Did you find things clicked better in the second half of the year and what happened that you got to that point?
FM:
When things are working well, when you feel confident and you feel that the car is behaving as you expect and doing what you want, you know you can be competitive. We improved a lot. Maybe I was a bit unlucky at the start of the season, but when things started to work, they worked at pretty much every race.

Q: This season has seen two big driver changes with Sebastian Vettel going to Ferrari and your old team mate Fernando Alonso going back to McLaren. Knowing the team as well as you do, how well do you expect Sebastian to adapt to life at Ferrari, and were you surprised to see Fernando leave the team? 
FM:
I think Fernando tried to leave the team two or three years ago, even when I was still at the team, but he couldn’t. I think maybe last year the car was not so good, the results were not there but he kept fighting, kept trying to change the team. But the team was already changing completely inside and they decided to change even Alonso. It’s a new team, but it’s a team you can never close your eyes to. Sebastian knows how to win - he’s won many championships - and I think Kimi will work much better without Fernando in the team. So maybe the team can work better. But they are also losing a fantastic driver in Fernando. He’s very quick and knows how to score a big amount of points during the championship. We need to wait and see if it’s better or worse. 

Q: It’s not long until the start of the season. What are you hoping for in Melbourne? 
FM:
It’s important to score good points to start the championship. If I could get on the podium, that would be a fantastic start.