Felipe Massa - World Champion for 39 Seconds
Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Alexandra Campos
Felipe Massa: somewhat of a forgotten hero of Formula 1, the Brazilian achieved 11 victories and 41 Podiums during his time in F1, and raced with iconic teams; Ferrari and Williams.
Felipe Massa also won the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship… for 39 seconds.
Massa was always up at the front, battling away with other legends of that era of F1 like Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Webber, and Button. However, when people discuss some of F1’s legends from the 21st century, Massa is always very low down on this list, and to me at least, this is unjustifiable. Here’s why:
Massa joined F1 in 2002 with Team Sauber and remained with them until 2006, where he would join the legendary and iconic team; the Scuderia Ferrari. He was partnered with Michael Schumacher in his first season in red, which is a tough job that even fellow countryman, Rubens Barrichello, found difficult on frequent occasion.
Many people seem to forget that Massa was a difficult man to beat, and Massa would have his best season recorded in 2008.
Massa had a strong 2008 campaign, and even won 6 out of 18 races; one third of the entire Championship! And he also had ten podiums that year too, which was amazing, especially considering the level of competition in that season as well, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton both proving that they were great drivers too. And who could forget Sebastian Vettel’s rise to fame and glory in the seasons 2008, 2009 and 2010.
After a long season full of action, it came down to a championship decider at Massa’s home race Interlagos, Brazil. The crowd were delighted, and the Brazilians were cheering Massa on; if he wins the championship, it would be the first Brazilian to have won it since the Legendary Ayrton Senna in 1991.
Felipe Massa had done everything he could do, winning the race and dominating it throughout.
However, championship rival Lewis Hamilton managed to get past Timo Glock, who was struggling for grip running up to the finish line, and Hamilton, on the final braking zone of the final lap, would drive past Glock to take his first World Championship.
Massa was clearly distraught, having won his maiden World Championship for 39 seconds. Brazil itself had a mixed feeling in the air, as Hamilton’s helmet was a tribute to Ayrton Senna’s, but Massa was the Brazilian everyone was rooting for.
In 2009, new regulations and a new car meant that Ferrari found themselves in a tricky situation, see this article I wrote on Ferrari’s 2009 struggle here:
Ferrari wasn’t quite the same, and they struggled to find their feet in 2009. But Massa’s Formula 1 journey was threatened in 2009, when he was taken to the hospital as a result of a loose spring from Barichello’s car, hitting him in the face.
Massa took a long time to recover from the injury, and was never quite the same since.
Sadly for Massa, his injury made 2010 a lot more difficult, he was also partnered with two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, which was tricky to say the least.
It all came to an end at the German GP at the Hockenheimring, where Massa’s engineer uttered the brutal, but famous words: “Felipe, Fernando is Faster than You.”
Massa’s career would begin a downward spiral in this period, and in the seasons 2011, 2012, and 2013, Massa would be the concrete number two driver for Ferrari, but given that Ferrari were not performing very well, Massa found the cars tricky to drive, and was replaced in 2014 by the returning Kimi Raikkonen.
Massa would find a new home in 2014, one where he’d stay until his retirement in 2017 with Williams F1. Massa would have a more relaxed period with Williams, and picked up a few podiums as well.
Massa’s last podium would come at the 2015 Italian GP, a fitting place for a final podium.
Massa would then join the Formula E grid in 2019, but didn’t have the best luck and would retire from Formula Racing in 2020.
Now, Massa races in the Brazilian stock car series.
Massa will always go down as one of the best to have never fully done it; mainly because he did do it, for 39 seconds.
Massa’s 2008 pole lap at Monaco was my first ever memory of Formula 1, therefore I have so much to thank Massa and Ferrari for, and whilst not ever quite the best driver of the 21st century, Massa is and always will be, like Mark Webber - a legend.
My First memory of Formula 1.
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DIVEBOMB Monthly Power Rankings - April 2022