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Felipe Massa: Brazil faces F1 driver crisis

By Ben Wyatt, CNN
updated 2:28 PM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Felipe Massa is lining up for his final race for Ferrari this weekend at his home circuit
  • The Brazilian is moving to the Williams team after being replaced by Kimi Raikkonen
  • Massa is worried that Brazil's production of racing stars appears to be waning
  • NEW: Nico Rosberg fastest in practice Friday with Massa back in seventh

Mugello, Italy (CNN) -- Felipe Massa can be forgiven for feeling a little emotional ahead of this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.

After notching up 11 wins in eight years for Ferrari, a longevity that makes him the famous Italian Formula One team's second-longest-serving driver, his last race for the Scuderia will be at the track he calls home.

Few nations can deliver the passion for motorsport and race-day color that Brazil offers, or match the country for its production-line output of star drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Emerson Fittipaldi, Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet.

But for the latest talent from those shores, there is good reason to be anxious throughout the festivities that will take place at the Sao Paulo-based Interlagos circuit.

"We've always had great drivers in Brazil and many champions, I think racing is in our blood, and it's very special to be part of Brazil and to carry on fighting," Massa told CNN's The Circuit.

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"But Brazil is getting less and less drivers, you know, so now I am the only Brazilian Formula One driver.

"It's difficult to see other drivers that can replace me for the future. When I was racing in little categories -- Formula Renault, Formula 3000 here in Europe -- in every category there was one Brazilian fighting for the championship, for victories.

"And now you don't see it anymore. It is definitely a worry and is something that ... I think our organization, our federation, should do something to improve our school in Brazil."

The 32-year-old, who has agreed a deal with Williams for the next three seasons after being replaced by Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, believes Brazil needs to invest more on young talent and build on the strengths of its go-kart program.

"Something's changed, especially in the school categories. We don't have another category after go-karts. Any way I can help ... I would do everything I can because Brazil is a very special country for motor racing," Massa added.

Read: 'Fernando Alonso's season? 8/10'

Despite his fears for the future, Massa is passionate about the role Interlagos has played in his career.

"Well, I love that track. I mean, I started there. On the other side of the wall there's the go-kart track, and this side of the wall is the normal racing track for the cars. I started when I was eight in go-karts, so I spent my life there and it's a fantastic track," he said.

These fond memories persist despite Interlagos also being the location where Massa was narrowly beaten by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to the drivers' world title in 2008, finishing just one point behind the Englishman despite his victory.

"Even if I lost the championship there in the last corner, I won the race. I started in pole position, I did the quickest lap of the race, so everything was perfect," he said.

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"For sure I lost the championship ... but I also had a great race in Sao Paulo and I had also a great championship as well."

Ferrari has not always been the easiest team to be a number two driver -- as Barrichello found out when he had to take a back seat to the ambitions of Michael Schumacher from 2000-05.

Massa, likewise, has had second billing at Mugello since the 2010 arrival of double world champion Fernando Alonso.

Team orders have often been enforced to the detriment of Massa's own goals, but he says there are no regrets over his time driving behind the "Prancing Horse" badge.

Read: Mark Webber aims to leave F1 on a high

"For sure you always have days where you expect better results and better things, but ... I had a lot of great times with Ferrari and very good years," said Massa, who suffered a horrific accident in Hungary in 2009 that kept him out of the car until the following season due to serious head injuries.

"Good fights, you know, victories and some difficult days, even one big accident that I had, which was also part of my history and my life. But I think I would not change anything in my life. I am very happy and I have zero frustrations in my life," he added.

No frustrations, maybe, but he still has an unfulfilled ambition of becoming world champion which, despite the domination of Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bulls, burns on inside his heart.

Getting back in the winning habit in front of a home crowd would be a big step in the right direction.

"When I don't believe anymore, I would stop racing," he said. "I mean, I really believe in myself, I know what I can do and I am really looking forward to having my championship, my title, and working on that."

Massa's bid for a "home victory" got off to a steady but unspectacular start Friday, claiming seventh fastest time in afternoon practice in his Ferrari, but quicker than teammate Alonso, who was 11th best.

Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in both sessions for Mercedes, with four-time champion Vettel second best in the afternoon runs as he bids for his ninth straight win and 13th of the season.

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