Massa: “To race without worrying about the future”

10.2.2012
3x2=6 is a very simple mathematical equation, but when you look at those numbers in terms of the final part of the Formula 1 season, it represents a very complex and demanding run of three sets of two races held on consecutive weekends. Each event involves unpacking and repacking everything sent as sea and air freight in as short a time as possible, not to mention the actual sporting challenge of trying to keep developing this year’s cars for those teams involved in the very close battle to win both driver and constructor championships. This final factor means that the men and women back at the factories also face a busy time, albeit without the joys of commercial air travel!

For race fans, the next few weeks will provide a feast of fantastic Formula 1 fun, for those who support a particular team or driver, it might in addition involve some nail biting moments, while for the Formula 1 drivers themselves, there will also be the challenge of keeping fit, while racing, travelling and moving from hotel to hotel and that starts with the tough physical challenge of Suzuka circuit for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, as Felipe Massa explains. “The preparation is more or less similar to the other races, although having said that, it’s true that Suzuka is quite a demanding circuit to drive from the physical point of view,” said the Ferrari man. “The fact that it has many high speed corners means you use a lot of muscular strength through the turns. So although physical preparation is more or less the same, with concentration on working the heart through aerobic exercise, we will do more work than usual on neck muscles for example, in the build up to Japan, to deal with the high G-forces. In general, in this final part of the season, you also have to prepare yourself for the fact there’s a lot more travelling involved: the Suzuka circuit is not the most accessible and, wherever you fly to, you then have quite a long journey to actually get to the circuit. And let’s not forget that, immediately after this race, we have to head off to Korea. It’s also important to get to Japan as early as possible, because it also takes a while to get used to the time difference.”

The Brazilian has stood on the Nippon podium once, on the second step, after he had the honour of starting from pole here back in 2006. “Suzuka is a very difficult and complex track, where a driver can make the difference, showing plenty of aggression through the high speed corners, so to be the fastest man in qualifying there is definitely a good feeling,” he recalled. “It was a nice race too, although I had to stop much earlier than planned because of tyre problems, which meant I lost a position and the win to Alonso, who was with another team then. At that point, Michael (Schumacher) was in the running for the title, but his engine failed, which cost him the championship that year. All the same, it was a great race, starting from pole and finishing second after having an exciting fight with the winner.”

Fernando first and Felipe second in 2006: what would that result mean in 2012 to our Brazilian driver? “It would be fantastic of course and also very good for our situation in both championships. Even if it will be tough, this weekend, I would love to be fighting for pole and victory again. Our car can be competitive at Suzuka, because there are plenty of high speed corners which suits the F2012, as can be seen from the fact we were competitive in Silverstone back in the summer and these two tracks have some characteristics in common, in terms of the required levels of downforce and how you set-up the car. In fact, I hope we can be more competitive at all the remaining tracks, as every race now is very important for the team and for Fernando and also for me of course! We all know that we need to work hard in order to be as competitive as possible at every track.” Felipe’s future has been a hot topic for what seems like months now, but there are no signs that the pressure is getting to the Brazilian. “Of course my future is important, but right now it’s the results that are the most important thing, which means I have to concentrate on each race as it comes. I know what I can do, what I can give to the team and what are my talents. The team also knows this, because I’ve been here with them for rather longer than a day or even a year! The best plan is to race without worrying about the future.”

The championship situation is incredibly tight with the balance of power seeming to swing between three or four teams from race to race. However, Felipe feels that Ferrari has done a great job in putting itself in a competitive situation after such a difficult start to this season. “The car changed a lot since the mid-season test in Mugello and we have developed it all the time since then,” he said. “We have tested constantly, nearly always bringing new parts to the track at each race. The job is all about scoring one more point than the others when it comes to the final race and so I hope we can improve it even more for the remaining races than we have done so far.” The Suzuka circuit has usually produced dramatic races often ending with a driver being crowned World Champion as dusk settles on the fantastic track, but that can’t happen this year. All the same, a very large crowd of hugely enthusiastic and knowledgeable Japanese race fans can be expected to turn up for all three days, just as they have done here 23 times before, dating back to 1987, when Ferrari’s Gerhard Berger was the first Suzuka Grand Prix winner. In total, the Prancing Horse has been first past the post in Japan seven times, while Fernando Alonso has won twice, when with another team and the Spaniard also finished second here last year. Like Monza, like Interlagos, Suzuka is a place where the crowd make it very clear what country you are in and Felipe is a big fan of this venue. “I love Japan and its people, their lifestyle and their education,” he admitted. “I also love to eat Japanese food, which I actually do wherever I am in the world, but eating it in its native country is special. I always look forward to visiting Tokyo as well, if I can spend some time there and, at the track, the enthusiasm of the crowd makes it a very enjoyable race weekend.”

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