Felipe Massa finally bid farewell to Formula 1, his career spanned 269 grand prix starts and records show he won 11 times and finished on the podium a further 30 times in the 15 years in which he plied his trade at the pinnacle of the sport.
In an interview with the FIA’s Auto magazine, the Brazilian reflected on his career and returment from Fomrula 1 as well as his plans for the future.
After 16 seasons of involvement in grand prix racing, you’re calling time on your Formula One career. It was particularly emotional in Brazil, where you raced in front of your home crowd for the last time. How did that feel? FM: The nicest memory I will keep with me of my final race at Interlagos is being able to bid farewell to the crowd, which I did from the podium with my son Felipinho by my side. That podium is linked to two of my most vivid memories from my Formula One career: the win in 2006 when I wore a race suit in Brazilian colours, and then in 2008 when I came so close to winning the championship. So to be able to stand on it again with my son, to thank all my fans, was really a very special feeling.
Looking back, are you happy with what you achieved during your career? FM: I am happy with what I have achieved in Formula One. I have raced at the highest level, for historic teams like Ferrari and Williams; I have won 11 grands prix and two of them at Interlagos, my home race, which for a Brazilian is simply priceless, and I came very close to winning the world title. There have been some difficult moments, in the sporting sense and otherwise, which helped me grow in stature and become stronger as a driver and as a man. One thing I have liked a lot over the past year, from my first ‘retirement’ to my actual one, was feeling the affection and respect from so many people in F1, not just those I know best, those I have maybe worked with, but from so many other people.
You’ve seen plenty of changes in F1 over your time in the sport. How do you see the current climate and the initiatives brought in by the new commercial rights holder? FM: This is a particularly important moment for Formula One as it goes through some major changes. The arrival of Liberty has definitely brought a breath of fresh air that can only be a good thing. I was particularly impressed with the initiatives aimed at the fans. The sport definitely needs to be more open, because it had become too closed in on itself. Now, it’s a case of laying down the foundations for the long-term future. Formula One definitely has to stay as the pinnacle of motor sport. It has to continue being the series that every driver aspires to, where the best challenge each other in the quickest and most technologically advanced cars. When I was a kid, I dreamed of racing in F1, and I’d like the kids of today and tomorrow to have the same dream. I’m sure the new owners and the FIA, along with the teams and the constructors, will know how to find the best solution.
You’ve made no secret of your desire to race on. Have you thought any more about which series you would like that to be in? FM: I grew up racing and I want to continue racing, but I haven’t made a decision yet. I have to say I have been impressed at the way Formula E is growing. Last winter I got the chance to test the Jaguar in Sicily and I had a lot of fun. I like the format, both technically and in sporting terms, which means drivers show how quick they are but also use their intelligence in how they drive.
It was recently announced that you’re taking on another role, as President of the CIK/ International Karting Commission. Why? Because it’s something very close to my heart. I took my first racing steps in karting and it taught me so much about the sport – not just in terms of the pure racing but about competition, fairness, how to win and how to lose and about the joy of motor sport. FIA President Jean Todt knew I wanted to give something back to the sport and he knows my passion for karting so he offered me this role and I was happy to accept. I’m excited about it. A lot of great work has been done in karting in recent years and I hope to continue that.
Your departure from F1 means that for the first time in almost 50 years there will be no Brazilian driver on the grid. How do you feel about that? FM: Naturally, I’m disappointed. My country has been an integral part of F1 thanks to drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi and I am honoured to have been part of it. What is worrying is that there is no sign of anyone coming through in the short term. The economic situation in Brazil has part of it, but it’s not the only problem. To go back to karting, there is no structure to prepare young drivers to move from karts to single-seaters and there is no national series that can get them ready to make the move to Europe, which is still the place that offers young drivers the best opportunities to progress. I tried in 2010 with Formula Future Fiat, but it didn’t work. Today, seeing how Formula 4 is doing well in so many countries, I think Brazil needs a championship like this. We have a new president of the Confederaçao Brasileira de Automovilismo, Waldner Bernardo de Oliveira, and I really hope that can be a new impetus to do something for the youngsters.