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Felipe Massa - Car #12

Felipe Massa

By Jamie Makin
October 22 2005

Felipe Massa returns for his third season in Formula One with team SAUBER PETRONAS. Learn more about this talented young Brazilian here.

Birthplace: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Date of Birth: 25 April 1981
Current Residence: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Entered F1: 2002
Number of F1 Races: 53
Career F1 Points: 27
Number of F1 Wins: 0
Number of F1 Poles: 0
Number of F1 Podiums 0
Number of Retirements 15

Peter Sauber has a knack for spotting young talent, having given Kimi Raikkonen his start in 2001. To replace Raikkonen, who had moved to McLaren in 2002, Sauber found a talented 20 year old Brazilian named Felipe Massa.

Massa's road to Formula One was similar to many of today's other successful drivers by starting in local karting events at the age of nine. He spent the next seven years karting until moving up to the Brazilian Formula Chevrolet Championship in 1998. He only claimed fifth place in his first year, but succeeding in winning the championship in 1999. Then he made the big move to Europe. In his debut in 2000 he won both the Italian and European Formula Renault Championships. 2001 saw him move up to dominate the European Formula 3000 Championship, winning six out of the eight races.

His entry into Formula One in 2002 was not as successful as his past three years. He had several testing shunts before the season even started, leading many to doubt his skills from the start. In his first grand prix in Australia, he was taken out in the big first turn accident. He redeemed himself in Malaysia though, taking sixth place and his first championship point. The rest of the season was a mix of highs and lows for Massa. He had eight DNF's total, half of which involved crashes and spins. But when he finished, he finished strong. Of his eight finishes, he was never lower than ninth place. He claimed three additional points with a fifth place finish in Spain and sixth at the Nurburgring. What he lacked in consistency he made up for in raw speed.

Towards the end of the season, things were looking grim for the Brazilian rookie. Massa became very outspoken against the team after the German grand prix when they ordered him to pull over to let Heidfeld pass for the final points paying position. Sauber also was quick to sign veteran Heinz-Harald Frentzen to replace Massa for 2003. At the Italian grand prix, the stewards declared it was Massa who caused an avoidable accident with Pedro De La Rosa's Jaguar and Massa became the first driver to be penalized by losing ten grid positions at the next race, the US grand prix. Sauber sidestepped the penalty by allowing Frentzen to race instead, while Massa could only watch it on television from his home in Brazil. Massa ended his difficult year in Japan by crashing out on his own early in the race.

At the end of the season, Peter Sauber offered Massa the role of test driver with the team which Massa quickly refused. When talks with other teams about a race seat yielded no results, Massa moved to Ferrari to become their second test driver. A year with the Italian team has proven very valuable to Massa. He has honed his skills by learning with some of the best drivers of the day, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. He set a new lap record at Ferrari's private test track, Fiorano, which held until the F2004 made its debut. Sauber monitored his progress throughout the 2003 season, and decided that his driving and his attitude had matured well enough to earn him back his race seat.

Massa justified Sauber's trust in him in 2004. Despite a difficult first race in Australia where he suffered a spin and a blown engine, his driving throughout the season showed greater maturity and consistency. He suffered only four DNF's all season. Not a single one was due to an "at fault" accident, allowing him to overcome his reputation as a "crasher". He finished strong as well scoring points in five races. His best results included a 4th place in Belgium and a 5th place at Monaco. The highlight of his year though was his home grand prix in Brazil. He qualified a strong 4th and led the race for two laps while the track was still damp. Although he later finished 8th it was still a race he could be proud of.

Massa will remain with Sauber in 2005 but will face a new challenge when Jacques Villeneuve joins the team. Massa's current contract runs out at the end of 2005. His chances to continue Sauber in 2006 or move to another team could hinge on how he measures up to the former World Champion.
Statistics are current as of the end of the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix.

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