Felipe Massa, the brazilian runner-up in the 2008 formula 1 world championship, is turning 40 years old today. So we at DIVEBOMB decided to remember the best moments of his career.
Written by Bruna Brito, Edited by Sam Stewart
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, on 25th April 1981, the brazilian got into motorsport at age of 6, when won a 50cc motorbike. This is when the passion for the speed started and a new talent was born. He spent 9 years in karting, achieving many victories and championships, but it was in 1998, in Formula Chevrolet, Felipe received attention, when he won the championship in the following year and started his career in Europe
With enough money and sponsors for the first rounds, Felipe debuted in Italian Formula Renault. After showing his talent by breaking records during the pre-season and winning the first round, the team gave him a chance to run more two races. He won both and with the support of the Cram team and some friends, he managed to compete in both championships, dominating the season and winning the two titles in an unprecedented indisputable way.
Formula Chevrolet, 1998
Now, with a contract with Draco Racing for a run in F300, Felipe dominated the championship, picking up 6 poles and 6 victories in the first eight rounds. As a result, the Brazilian talent drew attention of the famous Italian Scuderia Ferrari, becoming the first ‘young driver’ of Ferrari. In September, Massa’s first test in Formula 1 at Mugello was granted at the invitation of the Swiss Sauber Team. The team was impressed with the times inviting him to new tests, until the team became convinced in his potential, signing a contract for him to replace Kimi Räikkönen, who had gone to McLaren.
Draco Racing, at the F-3000 in 2001
The Brazilian’s debut came at 20 years-old, at the Australian Grand Prix, in 2002. His first points came in the second race, the Malaysian GP. After an up and down season, he ended up in 13th in the championship, being released by Peter Sauber at the end of the year.
After a year of experience as a full-time driver, he was called to be a test driver for Scuderia Ferrari. Felipe played an important role in developing the car during the season. This season of testing is considered by him to be one of the most important years of his career, having learned a lot from the duo formed by Michael Schumacher and his compatriot Rubens Barrichello. Felipe also attended all stages of the season as a reserve driver.
That same year began a partnership that lasts until today, with his manager and great friend Nicolas Todt.
More mature, Felipe returned to the Team of Peter Sauber. In this year in question, 2004, he scored 12 points and placed 12th in the drivers’ championship and led a race for the first time in Brazilian Grand Prix.
In his third year of Formula 1 as a starting driver, Felipe achieved his best result so far, 4th place in the Canadian Grand Prix. Standing in front of his teammate, Jacques Villeneuve, in the drivers’ world championship. This year, the Sauber team was sold to a BMW and would become the brand’s official team from 2006. Felipe was offered a 3-year contract to continue, but he was summoned to fulfill his dream of being an official Scuderia Ferrari driver alongside Michael Schumacher.
Felipe returned the confidence of the team with 7 podiums, 3 poles, one of them in the GP of Japan in Suzuka, and 2 victories in the GP of Turkey, his first in the category and also the first of the three he would reach in Istanbul, and in Brazil, where he changed the traditional red Ferrari suit for one with the green and yellow cores of his country’s flag. It was the end of a 12-year “abstinence” without a Brazilian victory at Interlagos and the third place in the world of drivers.
In 2007 Felipe and Kimi Raikkonen formed a dual titleholder of Ferrari drivers after the retirement of Michael Schumacher. Massa elevates the Ferrari team to win its 15th title in the world constructor’s championship, winning 10 podiums, 3 victories and 94 points.
Then 2008 came along, featuring the most electrifying championship decision in F1 history. Massa won the Brazilian GP for the second time and even celebrated the title for a few seconds in the last stage, before Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line in Interlagos with 5th place, that was enough to become champion. Felipe was vice by the difference of only one point. However, Felipe again elevates a Ferrari to win it’s 16th world title of constructors, an absolute record of F1, and the last Ferrari WCC to date.
In 2009, the Brazilian suffered a serious accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix that kept him from the tracks for the rest of the championship, when a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s car broke free and hit him in the face. In the following year, Massa made his return to the tracks, now with a new partner, Fernando Alonso, and right in the opening race in Bahrain he was in 2nd place, there were a total of 5 podiums and 144 points added, guaranteeing the 6th place in the championship, showing that he was recovered from the accident.
It was a difficult year for Felipe, who has not been on the podium even once and his best result was six 5th places. Ferrari was far from fighting for the title, but despite that Felipe managed to score in 15 of the 19 races, scoring 118 points in the championship, repeating the 6th place of the previous year.After a very bad first half of the championship, Felipe managed to recover and returned to make good races. He got a 2nd place in Japan and a 3rd place in Brazil, having his contract renewed for another season with the Ferrari team.
After becoming the driver with the third longest period at a team, at the end of that year, Felipe announced a change to the traditional English team Williams.
He was the only non-Mercedes driver to achieve pole position in 2014 (Austria) and, alongside partner Valtteri Bottas, took third place in the Constructors’ World Championship, becoming a key character for the rebirth and specialty of the English team led by Sir Frank Williams and his daughter Claire Williams. Felipe took 3 podiums, the Abu Dhabi GP, the Italian GP and his home race, the Brazilian Grand Prix. He continued his good work on the Williams team and won two more podiums, reaching the 41 podium mark in his career. Felipe scored 121 points and reached the 6th place in the world of drivers. It was in that year that Felipe almost ran over a groundhog that was in the middle of the track at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Felipe had a great first part of the championship in 2017, being the only driver to score in all first 6 races on the calendar. He also beat the pit stop speed record along with the mechanics with the 1.82s time set by Williams telemetry. In the second semester at an exciting press conference in Monza, he announced his retirement. It was there in 2006 that his mentor and considered older brother Michael Schumacher announced his own. At the time Schumacher gave Felipe a chance to remain in the Ferrari seat. His farewell to the Brazilian Grand Prix was considered one of the most exciting in the sport, being applauded by all teams starting with Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams, an iconic moment of recent times thrilling as grandstands and viewers.
After this major revision in his career, it is undeniable how much Felipe Massa persisted and fought to occupy his space in the most prestigious category of motorsport, and how much the Brazilian praised his nation, as well as accumulated fans around the world.
Currently, Felipe Massa is starting in the Stock Car, a Brazilian category, alongside another well-known figure, Rubens Barrichello.
Happy Birthday Felipe Massa!