After a year of testing with Ferrari, something he described as like a university semester for him, Felipe Massa returns to competition with Sauber in 2004. Massa debuted in F1 with the Swiss squad in 2002 but had a little too much enthusiasm in...
After a year of testing with Ferrari, something he described as like a university semester for him, Felipe Massa returns to competition with Sauber in 2004.
Massa debuted in F1 with the Swiss squad in 2002 but had a little too much enthusiasm in the crashing department. His exuberance saw Sauber send the Brazilian hot-head off to the Scuderia to hone his talents and calm down a bit. Now he's ready to put his learning to good use on the track.
"I'm really happy to be back here (Sauber)," Massa said at the launch of the C23. "After one year as a race driver at Sauber and one year as a test driver at Ferrari I think my experience is now completely different. Last year at Ferrari I learned a lot, not just driving the car but also on the technical side."
"I was at most of the races, in most of the meetings, I did a lot of kilometres (in testing); I did tyre tests, aerodynamic tests, engine, gearbox, electronics, which was a huge experience for me. It was also a great experience to work with Michael (Schumacher) and Rubens (Barrichello)."
The year with the Scuderia has calmed Massa. "Year by year you calm down," he said with a smile. "With experience you are much more calm than in the beginning. When I arrived in Formula One I was very young and inexperienced but now I think I am ready to start a new season."
"It's true that in 2002 I made some mistakes but I think I had some good results as well. I scored points and you always learn from your mistakes. Last year I never crashed (in testing), I had a few spins but you're always learning; everybody makes mistakes, even Michael Schumacher makes mistakes."
A year on the test track is not the same as being on the race track with nineteen other drivers fighting for success but Massa doesn't feel any added pressure. "I'm ready," he said with confidence. "There's always pressure in Formula One and this year will be no different but I'm ready for everything. I will do my best to bring in as many points as I can for the team."
For 2004 Massa is partnered by the very experienced and highly regarded Giancarlo Fisichella. Team boss Peter Sauber commented that with Fisichella's experience he would naturally be the team leader but Massa doesn't see it a clear cut case of driver positions within the team.
"I don't think we will have number one and number two drivers in the team. Everybody is here to do their best and to bring points to the team, which is my job. Fisichella is a very very good driver and a nice guy as well and I think it will be a huge experience for me to be his teammate. I will just do my best to be at a high level as well."
Some call Sauber the Ferrari 'junior' team, due to the relationship between the two; Ferrari supplies Sauber with engine and gearbox and the smaller team lends its drivers to the Scuderia for testing duties. Massa finds it hard to compare the two.
"It's always very difficult to compare one team with another," he pondered. "Ferrari has 800 people working and Sauber 300 so... The people in both of those teams are very professional, everybody is doing a great job but you cannot compare them."
The Brazilian drivers in the paddock are known to be a friendly bunch and working with compatriot Barrichello was good for Massa. However, Felipe is keen to see how everyone works and reacts to increase his knowledge. "For sure, he's Brazilian and we have a good relationship," the youngster says of Barrichello. "But it is interesting to see all the experienced drivers in Formula One."
"Michael already has so much experience, it's interesting to see how they (Schumacher and Barrichello) work with the engineers, how they talk with people; it's also important to be a leader, and they are leaders, so I learn a lot with them."
Massa has yet to experience the two-session qualifying and other changes since he raced in 2002 but nothing seems to faze him. "For sure, the qualifying rules have changed but I don't think it will be a big problem for me. I will prepare myself for these new rules but I don't see any worries. We only have one engine a weekend so maybe on Fridays we need to save a bit more, but I trust our engine to finish races."
For Massa, returning to Sauber is a welcome experience. "I'm very happy. I trust these people, I already know most of the people. Some new faces but mostly I know them and I'm looking forward to the season. It's too early to talk about results and that kind of thing but I'm really ready and I want to give 100% be at the top and bring points to the team."