Maranello, 6 November –It’s nearly time to say farewell. At the end of the year, Felipe Massa and Ferrari will go their separate ways in racing terms, but the affection that links the Brazilian to the team with which he grew up, as a driver and a man, will always be strong. That is clear from what Felipe had to say in an interview with Andrea Cremonesi in an interview in today’s Gazzetta dello Sport, as part of the build up to the 2013 Finali Mondiali, which gets underway today and goes on until Sunday at the Mugello circuit. The event will also serve as tribute that Ferrari wishes to pay to Felipe, who as stated in the headline to this story, will always be a Ferrari man.
Ten years at Ferrari, a racing life. Only Michael Schumacher wore the red race suit for longer than Felipe Massa, who leaves Maranello at the end of the year. Wearing that red suit, the Brazilian came within touching distance of taking the world title in 2008, but he also almost lost his life at the 2009 Hungarian GP.
The party in Mugello will feature the final huge Ferrari crowd: how will you feel going to the event in Tuscany?
“With happiness in my heart, because it will be wonderful to salute the fans to thank them for all the years we have spent together. They have always supported me, even in the most difficult times.”
Eight years as race driver: what’s the secret to staying such a long time at Ferrari?
“I have always behaved honestly and have given my all in my work on the track, with the engineers and in the factory. I think I have always acted very professionally.”
Do you remember your first day?
“It was early 2001 and I had come off the back of a season in F. Renault with Cram: I went to meet Jean Todt in a jacket and tie. Very tense and I was shaking.”
The best moment of this long adventure in red?
“Definitely 2008 when I came that close to the world title, with many wins and poles. But the day that will always stay with me was the one of my first win in Brazil (2006.) For a Brazilian to win at home is like taking the championship. Remember Senna? When he won in Interlagos he was happier than when he won the championship! I learned to race in Interlagos, I grew up there: to win there in a Ferrari wearing a green and yellow suit (not the usual red one, Editor’s note) was the best moment of my life.”
How do you explain to a youngster joining the FDA what it means to be a Ferrari driver?
“Mm, well first that it’s hard to get in! Because the selection of drivers is a tough process and it’s already a privilege to be part of the reds. And then, driving for this team means always being under the spotlight, you must always push to the maximum without worrying what people will say about you. It’s like being in a National football team, driving for Ferrari is like being in the Italian football team or playing for Selecao. You have to be prepared.”
After the accident in 2009, did your priorities in life change?
No absolutely not. Only that now I value life more. Because you always think nothing can happen to you and then…”
Stefano Domenicali said that he always considered you as a world champion after 2008. Did you sense that?
“100% yes. I deserved the title, taking into account the season and everything that happened…”
Sebastian Vettel took his fourth title this year: are those titles more down to him or his team?
“It is 100% down to him and his car. Because it’s true he drives the quickest and most consistent car. But then it’s he who manages to extract its potential, who takes pole, who puts 6 tenths over on everyone, including his team-mate! He’s a fantastic driver.
Let’s play at defining the men who have been your bosses, starting with Luca di Montezemolo.
“He is a big hearted person, and an able promoter. He knows how to describe and sell the idea of Ferrari. He is the right man for the job of president and I’m not just talking about the racing. He has an enormous aptitude for representing the company.”
“My best teacher. I first knew him when I was 19 and he has been the most important person in my career.”
“Definitely a friend, we have grown up together at Ferrari.”
Rob Smedley, his race engineer.
“He has played an important role in my career. When I first raced for Ferrari my race engineer was Gabrielle Delli Colli, but things didn’t go as they should have done and so I chose Rob who was there at the start and was with the test team (he came from Jordan, Editor’s note.) He knows me 100%.”
You have had many team-mates, which was the strongest?
“Fernando. Schumacher was as quick, but in terms of intelligence, Alonso is better because he manages to put everything together perfectly.”
Ferrari started 2013 strongly but then it stalled.
“At the start of the year, the car was competitive, but the mistake was that we didn’t manage to develop it as we should have done and as others did. The performance difference in this final part of the championship is down to a car that was not developed in the right way.”
Are you already thinking what you will do after F1?
“I love racing, it’s part of my life and makes me happy. Maybe after F1 I’ll try my hand at some other category.”
Which ones would you like?
“DTM or Brazilian Stock Cars.”
Webber has decided to race in Prototypes?
“I have no experience of endurance racing, however if they managed to get more top teams involved it could become interesting.”