Felipe Massa is a Brazilian racer and one of the longest serving drivers in the Formula One World Championship. He made an F1 debut in 2002 and retired at the end of 2017, recording 272 participations in Formula 1 Grand Prix events with 11 victories and 41 podiums.
He spent three seasons with Sauber, eight seasons with Scuderia Ferrari and four seasons with Williams. He never won a championship, finishing the best as a vice-champion in 2008, gaining a reputation as a solid team driver and one of the most respected F1 drivers.
Four-time champion early in a career
Felipe Massa was born in April 1982 in Sao Paulo. As a boy, Massa participated in various racing competitions in Brazil, reaching a peak in 1999 when he was a champion of the Formula Chevrolet Brazil.
In 2000, he moved to Europe and won both the Italian and European Formula Renault championships, winning seven of 17 races. This was followed by his move to the Euro Formula 3000 in 2001, where he won six of eight races and won his fourth championship title in just three years. That was enough for Sauber Team to offer him a place in Formula 1.
Formula 1 debut with Sauber
His rookie season in F1 was not really impressive. Massa scored only four points at the wheel of the #8 Sauber C21, so he lost his place in the team for the following season. His replacement was Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Massa spent a year as a test pilot in Ferrari, during which he had learnt a lot and changed his driving style, Massa moved back to Sauber for the following two seasons and had better times than in the previous stay in the Swiss team. In 2004, the Brazilian scored 12, and a year later 11 points.
Ferrari's man in the shadow
In 2006, Massa was paired up with Michael Schumacher in Ferrari, coming as a replacement for his compatriot Rubens Barrichello. He had an excellent first season with Scuderia scoring the first podium in his career, taking first pole position and finally the first victory in the Turkish Grand Prix. He was third in Drivers’ Championship that year and earned a place in the team for the following season.
Felipe's F1 career peak was at Scuderia
Expectations from the Brazilian were higher, but just partially were fulfilled. Massa won three races but finished fourth overall in 2007, when his teammate was Kimi Raikkonen. Struggling in wheel-to-wheel battles, Massa left plenty of points to his rivals, but the following season was the best in his career. He won six races and had four podiums, however, that was enough only to finish as a runner-up, just one point behind the new champion Lewis Hamilton. As it turned out, that was his last chance to win a trophy. After that, Massa remained still without a victory and he had won only one pole position.
Huge crash at Hungaroring
The following season could have been almost last for the Brazilian as he had an accident at Hungaroring. Massa's head, though protected by his helmet, was struck by a suspension spring that had fallen off from another car. He subsequently crashed head-on into a tyre barrier and was airlifted to a hospital where he underwent surgery in the area surrounding his left eye.
Moving to Williams in 2014
He stayed with Ferrari until 2013 but it was obvious that he couldn't be a serious contender for the place on the peak of standings. From 2010 to 2013 he won just eight podiums, which was far below of expectations.
After eight years, he left Ferrari and in 2014 joined Williams. Many Formula 1 fans thought the British squad made a mistake by hiring him, but Massa proved that he is still a useful team player and capable to produce some quality racing. His decision to join Williams proved to be very good as the team finally had proper cars, after many years of staggering.
Five F1 podiums with Williams F1 Team
The first year with Williams was pretty good for the Brazilian, even after an unlucky start of the season in Australia and Malaysia. However, Massa won the pole position (in Austria) for the first time since 2008, had three podium finishes with Williams and was 7th at the end of the season, while in 2015 he moved up to sixth in the Drivers' championship with third places in Austria and Italy as season highlights.
In 2016, Massa stayed with Williams, and for the third year in-a-row his team-mate was Valtteri Bottas. That season wasn't brilliant although the Brazilian almost regularly scored points. His best result that year was the 5th place scored in the season-opening race in Australia and later in the Russian Grand Prix. At the end of the year, Felipe was 11th in the Drivers' Championship what was below his his reputation and abilities.
Retirement and quick return
Before the end of 2016 campaign, Massa announced that he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season and probably will try to find a drive in other racing series. However, when Valtteri Bottas left Williams to join Mercedes before the start of 2017, the team called Massa to go out from retirement and to join the team for another season, to partner newcomer to the series, talented Canadian Lance Stroll.
Many were in doubt whether Felipe will have a motivation but he had a pretty good season in 2017, scoring points in 13 races and finishing 11th in the points. At the end of the season, he pulled out from F1 for the second time. This time, definitely.
Starting a new career in the Formula E
Massa was not out of racing for long. He joined Venturi Formula E Team to race in the fifth season of the global electric formula championship. In his first FE season, Massa reached podium once, finishing third at the streets of Monte-Carlo. At the end of the season, he was 15th in the points.
Massa stayed with Venturi in the 2019-2020 Formula E season.
Video - Felipe Massa: A Career In Retrospect
Unlike many of his colleagues, Felipe’s private life was never so interesting to the media. He is a religious family man who likes to be involved in charity work and, like many Brazilians, he is a huge fan of football. Massa never had the intention to be popular and sometimes he could hardly stand the pressure.
"Ferrari is a big company so every day you are in the media for good or for bad. Sometimes this is not helping the driver or even the team, definitely, you have a lot more pressure there than maybe another team. I felt a lot of pressure in difficult moments and you need to just relax," Felipe Massa described his days with Scuderia.
Another interesting fact is that Massa's manager is Nicolas Todt, son of Ferrari's past team principal and FIA president Jean Todt. In September 2012, Massa was the part of what should have been the world record breaking event at Silverstone. Total of 964 Ferraris, 36 short of their target of 1.000, gathered at the track, witnessed by 25.000 spectators.