F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer reviews the career of the man who’s won three of the four Turkish Grands Prix – Felipe Massa.
While the Turkish Grand Prix is a relatively new addition to the calendar, one person has made the track his own – Felipe Massa. The young Brazilian had a rough start to Formula One, but took advantage of some big opportunities and is now one of the big names in the sport. Let’s look back at how he fought his way to the front of the grid.
2002: Massa first came onto F1’s radar when he won the Formula 3000 Euroseries. Peter Sauber, fresh from discovering hot-shoe Kimi Raikkonen, felt that he had found another great talent and signed him up to take Raikkonen’s seat.
But when Massa began his rookie season in F1, it looked as if Sauber may have made a big mistake. Felipe had decent pace (scoring a point in his second race in Malaysia), but was prone to too many errors and mistakes. This was one of those errors, pushing himself and Enrique Bernoldi onto the Ste Devote escape road – much as Sebastien Buemi did to Nelson Piquet Jnr this year!
Later, he became the first driver to receive a ten-place grid penalty, after causing an avoidable accident with Pedro de la Rosa at Monza.
2004: A year off for Felipe in 2003 saw him take the third driver role at Ferrari. Many believe that this year at Maranello did him a world of good, allowing him to refine his driving style under the tutelage of a certain Michael Schumacher.
This year saw him back at Sauber. He had a slow start to the year, as he was outclassed by Giancarlo Fisichella. But he started to show some real pace in the second half, finishing fourth at Spa and scoring regularly. He even pulled off this ambitious pass on Jacques Villeneuve at Suzuka.
2005: Indeed, it was Jacques who was Felipe’s Sauber team mate this year. He continued to show some prowess in terms of speed and wheel-to-wheel battling. He had some good defensive drives (notably fourth in Canada from Mark Webber in the Williams), but also had some gutsy passes, like this one on David Coulthard in San Marino.
2006: When Ferrari announced that Felipe Massa would take Rubens Barrichello’s seat for 2006, many assumed that it was on the grounds that Felipe would be Schumacher’s latest loyal ‘number two’ driver.
Massa himself admitted later that he always saw Schumacher as a mentor, rather than a competitor. His first win in Turkey came from a brilliant pole position, but many thought that he’d have to give up the win to Schumacher. Fernando Alonso kept Schumacher at bay, however, allowing Massa to score his first Grand Prix win.
At Interlagos, he had a brilliant run from pole, but just like Turkey, he’d have to give up the win to Schumacher if it would allow him to clinch the title from Alonso. But just like Istanbul, the call from the pits never came, and Massa pulled off something his predecessor Barrichello couldn’t. Massa was the first Brazilian to win at Interlagos since Ayrton Senna in 1993.
2007: Entering the post-Schumacher era, many assumed that Kimi Raikkonen would walk his way to the title, supported by Massa. At first, it didn’t seem that way. Early wins at Bahrain, then here in Spain, meant that Massa stayed close, and even overtook Raikkonen in the standings.
But Massa wasn’t able to win any further races (other than Turkey) and soon went out of contention. He ended his title hopes, in style, however, as he sparred with Robert Kubica at Fuji, using every bit of the track – and then some! Here’s an onboard from Massa of the entire battle.
2008: Last season was Massa’s strongest to date, with six wins (including one here in Turkey). Many didn’t expect him to be the one challenging Lewis Hamilton for the title. However, he dropped serious points at Malaysia (driver error), Hungary (engine failure), and Singapore (pit crew error).
Arriving home at Brazil for the season finale, Massa only had a small chance to take the title, but he took it – for half a minute or so. Witness one of the most shocking endings in Formula 1 history.
2009: It’s been a challenging season so far for Felipe this year. That would be especially true when you consider that the first thing people remember about him this year is: Felipe Baby.
So what does the rest of this season hold for Felipe Baby? Ferrari’s car has greatly improved since Malaysia, and may figure in this weekend’s race at Istanbul. While their chances at this year’s title are dim at best, Massa’s star continues to shine in Formula 1.
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