Massa still confident he’ll be champ one day

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Felipe Massa still believes a world drivers championship is in his future and says he is back to normal, even if the Ferrari he’s driving isn’t quite up to snuff.

Massa’s comments come via an interesting twin bill for you. On one side there is the Telegraph, on the other the official Ferrari site.

Both take place on board an oil ship, part of a PR swing for Shell that was long in the works and not eliminated despite the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Not surprisingly, the Telegraph tends to comment more on America’s biggest ever oil spill more than Ferrari does.

But first to Felipe’s Formula 1-related comments, via the Telegraph:

After losing out to Lewis Hamilton by a single point on the final day of the season in 2008, he famously commented that it was what fate had decreed; good karma, following Hamilton’s own painful experience 12 months previously when the Briton lost out by a single point to Kimi Raikkonen. He was certain then that his time would come.

Does he still feel that way? “More than ever,” he replies. The conviction with which he says it is rather surprising given his career trajectory since that rainy day at Interlagos; 2009 was going nowhere until his accident, while this term Ferrari appear to have gone backwards since their opening-day one-two in Bahrain.

Massa also says his relationship with Fernando Alonso is good and that the only problem he’s having this year has been with his tires:

Massa is phlegmatic about that incident [when Alonso passed him heading into the pits at China], claiming to have “a good relationship” with the Spaniard. But he positively bristles at the suggestion that he might be struggling to recapture his form of 2007 and 2008. He may be a different person, “more experienced in life” than he was 12 months ago, but he is adamant he is the same driver.

“The only thing I have found tough this season is the problems I have had with the tyre temperatures in Australia, China and Spain,” he says. “But I knew it was a technical problem.

“In the last race [in Turkey, where Massa was seventh to Alonso’s eighth] I was back to normal. Ultimately the car is just not good enough.”

There’s also this bit of insight into the Brazilian:

There is a perception that the 29 year-old is too nice for F1; overly reliant on his race engineer Rob Smedley, whose Teesside brogue can regularly be overheard exhorting “Felipe baby” to wake up.

Massa neither wants nor needs our sympathy. His quietly cheerful exterior belies a tough little cookie, albeit he doesn’t get involved in politics.

Whereas the McLaren drivers saw the opportunity to exploit the rift at Red Bull between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, remarking that it could play into their hands, it doesn’t occur to Massa to do the same. He says talk of Vettel losing his head is nonsense.

“I think sometimes people don’t know what they are talking about,” he says. “I mean, look, nobody cares about Mark Webber, then he wins two races and all of a sudden he is amazing. Now Sebastian is ‘crumbling under the pressure’. After two races people change their minds very quickly. The fact is there are lots of drivers who are capable of winning the championship.”

Needless to say, Massa is talking about himself.

We can’t leave the ship without Massa talking about the BP oil spill:

“For sure, I think these things happen for a reason,” he says of BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion. “Sometimes you see incredible things happen and we don’t know why. It’s the same as my accident. It was so incredible but it happened for a reason.”

Which was? “Maybe it was a lesson not to take things for granted. I used to look at accidents and bad things and think they only happened to other people.”

The Ferrari version is a bit shinier:

It was an unusual place to find Felipe, but not all that strange given that this is where the crude oil comes from, which is then processed by Shell into the fuel and lubricants used in road cars and also the Ferrari Formula 1 cars.

“It was a very interesting experience,” said Felipe. “It’s incredible to see how complicated is the extraction process and management of the crude oil on this ship. When I was at the control desk, it reminded me of looking at the telemetry from our cars when we are on track: every parameter can be studied in real time 24 hours a day.”

[snip]

“Safety in Formula 1 is a priority and I can see the same is true here,” added Felipe. “But that’s not the only thing it has in common with my world. Here too, teamwork is the key and each individual has to work in harmony with everyone else to get the job done as well as possible. They are together almost all the time for at least two weeks at a time and it’s vital that every member of the group feels responsible for what they do and is ready to help those around them. It’s the very same in a Formula 1 team.”

Before leaving the ship, Felipe also got onto the subject of Formula 1. “We are about to tackle an important race in Montreal, where Ferrari must try and be more competitive than we were in Turkey,” said the Brazilian driver. “On paper, the circuit should be better suited to the characteristics of the F10, but we will have to wait until Friday to see what the situation really is.”

I still really like Massa and would be happy to see his fortunes turn around. He does come across as too nice, but it also is clear the guy is every bit the competitor as the other drivers on the grid.

And I think if or when he puts together that championship season, in the process he’ll put to rest any lingering questions about whether he is champion quality.

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