Q&A: Felipe Massa
Brazilian Felipe Massa explains his passion for grand prix racing and the reasons he didn’t need to be persuaded twice about curtailing his retirement plans.
After going through the motions of saying farewell to F1 last year, Massa has answered an SOS from Williams to comeback and fill the breach left by Mercedes-bound Valtteri Bottas.
Massa, the decidedly likeable 11-times grand prix winning driver, bid farewell in front of a packed home crowd at Interlagos just ahead of his final race at Abu Dhabi in November.
Then when Nico Rosberg floored the F1 world with his decision to quit the sport in early December, it paved the way for 35-year-old Massa to put his retirement plans on hold.
Among the chief driving forces for Massa to do a backflip were from key corporate partners at Williams who wanted a senior driver to run alongside the already confirmed teenager Lance Stroll.
Massa explains his reasons for returning in this interview supplied by the Williams team.
Q: You said at the end of last season that you felt it was the right time to retire from Formula One, what has changed?
MASSA: My intention was always to race somewhere, as I still have the passion for racing and competing.
I also have a strong love for Williams as I have enjoyed the last three years with the team, and therefore coming back to help give stability and experience to drive things forward in 2017 was something that felt right to do.
Q: Could you have looked at other opportunities to stay in Formula One, if you were still open to the idea?
MASSA: I have a passion for racing, for competing and for fighting on the track. My return is not about seeing Formula One as the best option, but is about seeing the role at Williams as the best option.
I would not have returned for any other team.
Q: You left the sport on such a high at the end of last season, is there a danger that you won’t get the same reception now you have returned?
MASSA: The scenes I saw in Brazil and Abu Dhabi last year are ones that I will never forget. I am so grateful for everything that happened last year and all the kind messages.
Whatever happens this season, I will always leave the sport with my head held high.
Q: Do you still have the desire to race in Formula One?
MASSA: When I joined Williams back in 2014 I found a team – and a family – that I have loved being a part of.
I certainly haven’t lost the desire to race and fight on track. Whatever I would have turned my hand to this year, I would have been putting 100 percent effort into doing the best job that I can, and if I didn’t have that passion, I would not have agreed to return.
Q: You have been linked to a number of different race series over the winter, how far had conversations gone?
MASSA: Since announcing my retirement last year, I had been assessing my options and there were a number of opportunities presented to me that I could have pursued.
However, I have made my decision and therefore this is now my focus.
Q: How does it feel to be replacing your old team-mate Valtteri?
MASSA: Going to the current World Champions is a great opportunity for Valtteri. He is a talented racer and it was great working alongside him for three years. I wish him all the best for the next chapter of his career.
Q: Can we assume that money was a factor in your decision to return to Formula One?
MASSA: I won’t be discussing figures or any details regarding the negotiations. All I will say is that this was the right decision and I am happy to continue as part of the team.
Q: What helped make the decision and what factors did you take into consideration?
MASSA: I think what happened at the end of last season with Nico’s unexpected retirement sparked a unique turn of events.
Valtteri has been offered a fantastic opportunity and, as a result, an opportunity arose for me.
When the media began reporting that I might return, I was touched by the response from so many fans who wanted to see me back in the sport.
That was certainly a factor in the decision, so I’d like to thank the fans for their support.
But, at the end of the day, when I received the call it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was Williams!
Q: Can you confirm this is a one-year deal?
MASSA: At present this is a deal for 2017 only and I have not thought beyond.
Q: What are your thoughts on your new team-mate Lance Stroll?
MASSA: I’m looking forward to working with Lance, having known him for a long time.
He has proved in the championships he has competed in so far that he deserves this opportunity, and it’s great to welcome new talent into Formula One.
Lance may be young, but Williams has a history of bringing young drivers into the sport.
He knows there is a steep learning curve ahead, but motorsport is a team sport and I look forward supporting him in any way I can.
Q: What are your thoughts and hopes for 2017?
MASSA: It’s going to be an exciting year with all the regulation changes and I’m going to be spending lots of time with the team now preparing for the season.
It’s too soon to make predictions, as we haven’t even turned a wheel.
But I can say that I’m very much looking forward to driving the FW40 when testing begins next month.
Q: Williams is celebrating 40 years in Formula One this year, are you looking forward to being part of that?
MASSA: Yes, very much. Williams has such a great history in the sport and reaching this milestone is a fantastic achievement.
I know the team has more plans to celebrate this year and I’m looking forward to being part of them.