Felipe Massa: Life with the Scuderia – 2006

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For the new 2014 season Felipe Massa will finally leave Ferrari to open up a new chapter in his Formula 1 career at Williams, when the Brazilian driver will partner former GP3 Champion Valtteri Bottas. For eight years Felipe Massa has competed with the Scuderia, in what was a topsy-turvy ride alongside the likes of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Massa made his Formula 1 debut at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix for Sauber, fresh from his Championship glory in the F3000 Euro-Series the year before. Despite scoring four points throughout his debut season, the Brazilian driver was eventually replaced for 2003 by German driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen. However, Felipe Massa proceeded to utilise his time away from a full-time drive in the sport by completing 37 days of testing for Ferrari, before returning with Sauber for a further two seasons in 2004 and 2005.

Whilst competing for the Swiss outfit during 2004 and 2005, Felipe Massa continued to test for Ferrari before eventually signing to drive for the Italian outfit in place of Rubens Barrichello for 2006 alongside multiple World Champion Michael Schumacher. With only 27 points scored in his Formula 1 career prior to life with Ferrari, as well as his already unfortunate reputation for causing incidents, many were understandably dubious of his appointment especially as the Brazilian driver was managed by Nicholas Todt, son of then-Ferrari team principal Jean Todt.

However, Felipe Massa’s Ferrari career began in competitive form during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. During the inaugural shootout-style qualifying hour, the Brazilian driver managed to secure 2nd position on the grid alongside team-mate Michael Schumacher on pole. Despite such a promising display during qualifying, Massa’s previous gremlins returned during the 57-lap race when he spun behind reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso. The Brazilian luckily avoided a collision with the Renault ace and managed to continue racing, despite later enduring a frustratingly long pit-stop which ended his hopes of finishing within the points.

It was a different story during the next round in Malaysia, when Massa was forced to change his engine prior to the qualifying session. To conserve the new unit, he elected to sit out of Q2 and therefore eventually ended the session 16th on the grid. Due to his earlier engine change, Felipe Massa eventually started the race from a lowly 21st on the grid alongside Ralf Schumacher. Despite such a disappointing qualifying session, Massa was able to fully redeem himself during the race by finishing 5th ahead of Michael Schumacher. Further up the order it was a Renault 1-2 with Giancarlo Fisichella winning ahead of Fernando Alonso.

If many members of the Formula 1 community were still undecided as to whether Felipe Massa was the right man to replace Rubens Barrichello at Ferrari, then the Australian Grand Prix would certainly not change their opinion as Massa endured a weekend to forget around Melbourne’s Albert Park Street Circuit. During the second segment in qualifying Massa lost control of his Ferrari and suffered a session-ending incident, which saw him line-up on the grid in a lowly 15th position. Unlike the previous race in Kuala Lumpur, Massa was unable to redeem himself as he made contact with both Christian Klien and Nico Rosberg at the start and was forced into retirement.

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Felipe Massa managed to secure his first podium finish at the European Grand Prix.

After a relatively competitive race weekend next time out at the San Marino Grand Prix, Felipe Massa managed to storm to his maiden Formula 1 podium finish at the European Grand Prix around the legendary Nurburgring, as the Brazilian driver both finished and qualified 3rd behind team-mate Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. At the Spanish Grand Prix he was unable to immediately return to the rostrum, as he settled for 4th position around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. However, Massa managed to produce the overall fastest lap of the race along the way, as his earlier woes seemed to evaporate.

However, Felipe Massa was certainly brought back down to earth with a bump at the iconic Monaco Grand Prix, where both he and team-mate Michael Schumacher were subject to great embarrassment and controversy during the qualifying hour. During the opening segment of the session, Massa slammed into the daunting Monte-Carlo barriers at Casino Square, completely ruining his session and initially qualifying plum last with 22nd on the grid. During the all-important top ten shootout the Formula 1 fraternity was plunged into a mass of controversy, as seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher took the wrong line through La Rascasse and stopped his Ferrari only inches before making contact with the barriers.

Due to the tight confines of the Monte-Carlo Street Circuit, this prevented anyone from completing their timed laps, including the Renault of Fernando Alonso who was improving and looked likely to dethrone Schumacher from pole position. Eventually it was deemed by the race stewards that the German’s actions were deliberate, and he was subsequently stripped of his qualifying time and demoted to the back of the grid. This meant both Ferraris’ would start the 78-lap race from the back row of the grid, the first and as of yet only time this has occurred in the history of the sport. During the race both Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa were unsurprisingly able to scythe their way through the order, despite the notorious lack of overtaking possibilities around the circuit. Schumacher was able to finish a decent 5th, whereas Felipe Massa could only manage 9th and a lap off of the pace.

After the shenanigans of the Monaco Grand Prix, Felipe Massa managed to pick up two 5th place finishes during the next two races at Silverstone and Montreal, before rocketing his way to his personal best finish of his career with 2nd at the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. The Brazilian qualified 2nd alongside his team-mate, with the Scuderia duo finishing in exactly the same order after 73 laps. His competitive and mature display of driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened the floodgates for further podium finishes at Magny-Cours with 3rd and Hockenheim with 2nd, as Felipe Massa began to appear as a likely race winner as the season progressed.

Eventually Felipe Massa’s run of impressive form was brought to a damp conclusion at the first ever wet Hungarian Grand Prix, despite the Ferrari driver qualifying 2nd once again alongside the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen. However, the tricky weather conditions during the race created a typical lottery, as Jenson Button stormed to his maiden race victory for Honda whereas Felipe Massa could only manage 7th ahead of his team-mate.

At the Turkish Grand Prix, Felipe Massa finally silenced his critics with an masterful drive in the Ferrari. The Brazilian ace managed to secure a strong pole position ahead of his team-mate, with the Renault duo of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella on the second row of the grid. During the 58-lap race Massa powered himself to victory, despite a mid-race threat from his German team-mate. On lap 14 it looked as though Michael Schumacher was preparing to pounce upon his team-mate and take the lead, with Fernando Alonso ten seconds behind the duo. However, Schumacher’s hopes were dashed when Vitantonio Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso on the start/finish straight due to a transmission issue.

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Felipe Massa finally took his maiden victory at the Turkish Grand Prix.

Eventually the safety car was deployed, which subsequently saw many drivers plunge into the pit-lane to refuel including both Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher. With the Brazilian driver naturally the first to receive a new set of boots and more fuel, the German was forced to frustratingly wait for several seconds before being served, losing the ability thwart his team-mate and also dropping to 3rd behind Fernando Alonso.

Despite Felipe Massa’s maiden Formula 1 victory, rumours within the paddock were beginning to link Kimi Raikkonen to a drive at the Scuderia. The Finn had not won a race throughout 2006, but had clearly shown his skill as a driver during the previous seasons with stunning race victories such as the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix. However, the question was who would he replace at Ferrari in 2007? It had been widely speculated at the time that Michael Schumacher would retire at the end of the season, however if such a decision was not confirmed by the German, Felipe Massa would most likely find himself without a drive.

Eventually all of the rumours were brought to an emotional conclusion at the Italian Grand Prix, when Michael Schumacher stormed to a memorable race victory in front of the adoring Tifosi masses. Felipe Massa qualified 4th and could only manage a disappointing 9th, however all of the attention was on Michael Schumacher who entered the televised post-race press conference to emotionally confirm his plans to retire at the end of the season. This announcement all but secured Felipe Massa’s drive at the team for 2007, with rumours linking Kimi Raikkonen to the outfit increasing by the day. As expected, the Finn was finally confirmed at the Scuderia shortly after the Italian Grand Prix, creating an intriguing partnership with Felipe Massa in a new-look and Schumacher-less Ferrari.

With only three races remaining, Ferrari were fully focused in providing Michael Schumacher with a Championship battle right to the end of his Formula 1 career. At the Chinese Grand Prix the German managed to take what would be his 91st and last race victory in the inclement conditions at Shanghai, whereas Felipe Massa’s miserable weekend ended on lap 44 after a collision with David Coulthard in the Red Bull. At the penultimate race of the season around Japan’s legendary Suzuka circuit, the Ferrari duo locked-out the front-row with Felipe Massa surprising many by securing his second pole position of his career.

Michael Schumacher wasted no time in assuming the lead of the race ahead of his team-mate on the third lap, as the German rocketed away to what looked set to be a highly important race victory. However, such successes were not meant to be as the German driver was struck with a cruel and race-ending engine failure on lap 36, effectively ending his Championship hopes in a cloud of white smoke. Felipe Massa managed to pick up a consolation podium for Ferrari in 2nd, behind race winner Fernando Alonso who now looked on course to securing his second successive World Championship Crown.

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Felipe Massa ended his debut season with Ferrari in fine form, with victory on home soil.

The final race of the 2006 season at Sao Paulo began with Felipe Massa once again securing an impressive pole position for Ferrari, wowing his adoring local fans who had that faint scent of a local victory in their nostrils. During the action-packed race, Felipe Massa did not disappoint as he stormed to an emotional home victory ahead of newly-crowed Champion Fernando Alonso, becoming the first Brazilian driver to win on home soil since the legendary Ayrton Senna in 1993. Michael Schumacher’s final race of his Ferrari career ended with an equally action-packed 71 laps, as the German was struck with a puncture on lap 9. The German subsequently dropped to 20th and last position, before clawing his way back through the pack to finish 4th.

Despite enduring a rocky start to his career at the Scuderia, Felipe Massa had fully implemented himself as a race winning driver as the season had worn on. Slightly overshadowed by an unquestionably stronger team-mate, Felipe Massa had a new challenge to contend with in 2007, that of the unpredictable character of Kimi Raikkonen. With Fernando Alonso leaving Renault to join McLaren alongside reigning GP2 Champion Lewis Hamilton, the new season looked set to be a case of déjà vu with Ferrari vs McLaren once again.

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