Skip to main content

Felipe Massa: Brazil faces F1 driver crisis

By Ben Wyatt, CNN
updated 2:28 PM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
  • 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.

Ferrari's secret: make fewer cars
Only fastest will be team number one
Montezemolo: 'Alonso 8 out of 10'

"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.

Pirelli weathers tire quality challenges
F1 legend on making it big in the U.S.

"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.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:08 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
The big winners of this Formula One season could be road drivers rather than F1 racers, according to one former world champion.
updated 1:30 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
The Williams team welcomes the biggest rule changes to Formula One cars for a generation.
updated 3:16 PM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton sums up the dawn of a new Formula One era in three juicy words -- weird, mind-blowing and challenging.
updated 8:16 AM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
Formula One is taking another step in its techno evolution this season, which could be more unpredictable than it has been for a long time.
updated 5:55 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Susie Wolff
Despite being a sport well into its seventh decade, only two women have ever driven in Formula 1 but Susie Wolff hopes to become the third.
updated 12:36 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Jann Mardenborough on the similarities and differences between driving a race on a video game and driving a real F1 car.
updated 7:26 AM EST, Sat February 22, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin watches the men's cross-country 4 x 10km relay event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL/ MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
How Russian president Vladimir Putin helped turn a muddy hole in the ground into a $400 million futuristic grand prix track in Sochi.
updated 7:13 PM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Formula One racing director Bernie Ecclestone talk during a ceremony of signing of an agreement to bring Formula One racing to Sochi for a Grand Prix Russia to be held in 2014, the same year the Black Sea resort hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi on October 14, 2010. Putin, whose backing was crucial in Sochi winning the right to host the Games, is due in the city on Thursday to sign an agreement for work to begin on the construction of a new 200 million dollar circuit. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Vilified by the the international community for his government's attitude on gay rights, Russian president Vladimir Putin has found an ally.
updated 7:17 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
CNN's Rosie Tomkins speaks to Caterham F1 owner Tony Fernandes on the team's driver line-up for 2014.
updated 12:13 PM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is bidding for a fifth consecutive drivers' championship in 2014.
He is Formula One's undisputed No. 1, and next season Sebastian Vettel will have proof of that fact emblazoned on his Red Bull.
updated 11:33 AM EST, Wed December 4, 2013
A new era of F1 looms large on the horizon in 2014, but what do the new rules mean for how we watch the sport? Get up to speed here.
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Explore our interactive of one of F1's most important and complicated pieces of kit.