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Exclusive Felipe Massa Q&A: I want to stay at Williams in 2017

26 Aug 2016

Felipe Massa’s F1 future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks, with the Brazilian’s contract with Williams set to expire at the end of the season and the Grove-based team openly considering their options. But do the rumours bother him and does he think he’ll be on the grid in 2017 – and if so, where? We sat down with the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix winner for an exclusive chat in the Spa paddock…

Q: Felipe, it is an open secret that there is a vacant cockpit at Williams for 2017 as your contract terminates at the end of this season. Is it your aim to stay?

Felipe Massa: Yes! I love to work for Williams - it’s a nice team. I have this team inside my heart - and there it always will be, so I think we need a little bit more time to understand what happens - actually what is going to happen in 2017. Of course I am also talking with some other teams - and to myself as well! (Laughs) And probably there I will find the right answer! I am sure that I will have found an answer not too long from now. 

Q: How does it go down with you that [deputy team principal] Claire Williams has openly spoken about Jenson Button and Sergio Perez’s credentials in terms of possible candidates for a drive?

FM: Well, that is not really something of significance - and for sure no big news for me. It is natural that the team is always looking for the best - or what they believe is the best under certain circumstances. Jenson is a great driver and Sergio has shown that he has developed into a great driver as well. So I would sum up the current situation as business as usual if a team has a cockpit to fill. This is customary in this sport - so absolutely nothing to worry about and no ‘sting’ in the heart. 

Q: Should there suddenly be a ‘no vacancy’ sign at the Williams headquarters in Grove, what is Felipe Massa’s ‘Plan B’? 

FM: Ha, I cannot say. For sure I have some plans. But it would not be right for me to give hints right now. So I leave it for the moment and time will find the right answer. And that answer as I just said will come rather soon.

Q: Is Formula One an option at all for you, then? You have been in the sport for so long - you have seen it all, done it all…

FM: Let’s put it this way: I want to be in Formula One to matter! I am definitely not here to make up the numbers. I am here to give my talent and my work to achieve results. If I don’t have that I will look for different things. So everything is moving! (Laughs) 

Q: Could a swap of cockpits with Perez be an option? Or a return to Sauber, which might benefit from an experienced driver?

FM: Believe me: a lot of teams will need experienced drivers next season. Drivers who already have the experience of the sort of cars that we will see in 2017 in their career. 

Q: Williams are currently P4 in the constructors’ standings - and that is a very respectable position when only Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari are ahead. So why is there the feeling that it is a rather difficult season for the team? Do you have an explanation for that?

FM: Yes, it is a very respectable result - at the last race in Abu Dhabi. For the moment we need to work massively to do better - which didn’t happen in July. July was a really negative month for us - and everything that happened to us in July we have to eliminate. We need to be able to control these three teams: Force India, Toro Rosso and McLaren. Keep them behind us.  

Q: In the last four races Williams have only bagged six points. Is that a sign that all efforts are already on 2017?

FM: Yes, it is true that many cars on the grid have not changed for a couple of races - this is of course an indication that everybody has a firm eye already on 2017, and that includes us too. Probably we’ve stopped the 2016 development even earlier. And of course that doesn’t help for this year. So it’s always a bit tricky to have a target for the current season - but also for the future. So my guess is that the midfield fight will be very intense.

Q: Will the team have enough strength to keep Force India behind? Is there anything planned for the car for the nine remaining races?

FM: We’ve been working on the new car for more than two months, but of course we also do have little things to come - but very little.

Q: So the drivers will have to make the difference then…

FM: Yes, I hope so - in a positive way.

Q: Your former team mate Fernando Alonso said that the 2017 changes are something he is looking forward to as he hopes that the feeling of real racing that he had at the beginning of his career will come back. Is that also the case for you?

FM: Oh yes! For the drivers 2017 will be much more interesting. Definitely! But what goes for Fernando, and for myself, is that you really enjoy it only when you are competitive. So even if the car is more fun, it’s always the results that put a smile on your face. And that particularly goes for Fernando! (Laughs) 

Q: Fernando also said that theoretically he could have won the title five times - he could have had one with McLaren in 2007 and at least two more with Ferrari. You were his team mate at Ferrari for four years and there were always team orders in the air… 

FM: …he lost two championships in the last race! McLaren I am not so sure - so I would say he could be a champion four times. But it didn’t happen - just like me. I could have won the championship once. But it didn’t happen. Many people say that for them I am the real champion of 2008. But it is not on paper!

Q: If you’d let Fernando past more, would that have provided those two titles with Ferrari?

FM: Ha, I did! To be honest I did everything they [Ferrari] asked me. And he didn’t make it. 

Q: Every one of the 22 guys on the grid dreams of winning the title - and in 2008 you came so close to knowing that sensational feeling. Is the dream still on your mind?

FM: Yes, because if you had that dream once it is not going out of your mind. It stays - for sure, as long as I am racing in F1! Of course if I look at my situation it is very difficult - but it is still part of my dreams. 

Q: You have been one of only two non-champions to win at Spa in the last nine years. But as we know you have nearly been a champion. Is this track a track for champions?

FM: For sure the driver makes a difference here - so the Spa trophy holds a special place in my collection! That much it means to me! But as for this weekend I am afraid that there will be no trophy to take home. It was a rather difficult day and I guess the times show it. Neither Valtteri nor I have been able to extract the maximum out of the car. FP1 in the morning was a bit better - but also far from where we want to be. Yes, we tried some things, as you have to think out of the box if there is not much development coming to the car any more. But this is a tricky race, so Sunday could see some surprises. And as we just concluded: the driver does make a difference here!