Maranello, 11 September – Eleven wins, eleven extraordinary highlights in Felipe Massa’s racing career to date, all of them with one common denominator, Scuderia Ferrari. From the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix to Brazil in 2008, these are the eleven unforgettable moments in a tale that is reaching its conclusion, but is not over yet. The greatest win, but in sporting terms, also the most painful, was the last one. On that Sunday 2 November 2008 at Interlagos, Felipe was world champion for a handful of seconds. He had crossed the line first at the end of a race he had dominated from start to finish and only an overtaking move at the Cesarini corner by Hamilton on Glock, who was struggling on slicks on the damp track, deprived the Brazilian of the greatest prize. It’s true that if a title is lost by a single point, some incident or other can be deemed to have been decisive, but in the eyes of the world what people remember from that day is the dignified manner in which the Ferrari man dealt with his disappointment on the podium. “Sport is made of moments like this and we have to accept them,” he said. “Congratulations to Lewis: whoever scores the most points deserves the title. I am very proud of the whole team and of how much support they have given me throughout this fantastic season. Now we must be happy for what we have done: we have brought home the Constructors’ title and I know how important that is for the team. I leave Interlagos my head held high, because I have won again in front of my home crowd and because this is a day that will remain unforgettable.”Two years and eleven days earlier, at the same circuit and on the same podium, there was joy unconfined, as can only happen when a Brazilian wins his home race. And if the victory comes while wearing your national colours, then the party is complete. The 22 October 2006 was special, because it was the day Michael Schumacher said his (first) farewell to racing. That weekend, Felipe wore the colours of the Brazilian national flag on his race suit and it seemed to give him that little bit extra in terms of speed, as he dominated the weekend. In the race, he flew off into the distance all the way to the flag, while further back, Michael put on a show with a great fight back up the order from last place, but on the podium, the celebrations were all about the local boy. “Today, another dream, a dream I’ve had all my life, has become reality,” he said after the race. “The car was perfect, the Bridgestone tyres were perfect, I drove impeccably and all of that at my home race! I want to dedicate this win to my family, my friends and all those who have helped me in my career and to the Brazilian people, who today made me feel all their affection through the fans here on the grandstands.”
While Interlagos was the scene of his most memorable wins, Istanbul and Sakhir became something of speciality tracks for the Brazilian because of the ease with which he always demonstrated his skills on these two very different if equally demanding circuits. In Turkey, Felipe won three times on the trot, from 2006 to 2008 and in Bahrain twice, in 2007 and 2008. The first and the last of these aforementioned wins were particularly important. The 2006 Istanbul victory was the first of his Formula 1 career, a memory he will always cherish, while the Sakhir win was in some ways more important, as it confirmed his abilities at a time when critics among the media, something of a constant during Felipe’s time at Maranello, were already whispering strongly after the race in Sepang. The Brazilian also won twice in Spain, although at two different tracks and in two different Grands Prix. Curiously, on both occasions, in Barcelona in 2007 and Valencia the following year, Felipe took pole, the win and the fastest race lap, confirming that, on his day, he had the speed to beat anyone, if he had the car to match his ability. Felipe’s two other wins proved harder to come by, in strange circumstances in that amazing 2008 season. In Magny-Cours, the Brazilian profited from his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen having an exhaust problem, while at Spa, in the rain that fell in the closing laps, Felipe kept out of the final scrap between the aforementioned Kimi and Hamilton, which ended with the Finn in the barrier and the Englishman penalised after the end of the race. In fact, very often, others had profited from the misfortunes that befell Felipe – one only has to think of his engine failure in Budapest in 2008 – so that these two unexpected wins that came his way are only a partial payback for a driver who is still in credit with Lady Luck.