Massa's Blog

Valencia has good memories for me

June 22, 2011 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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I have just arrived in Valencia today, Wednesday, after spending a week at home in Sao Paolo following on from the Canadian Grand Prix that had promised so much but did not deliver the result I was capable of getting. But in a busy Formula 1 season like this one, you don’t have long to wait to try again and that is what I plan to do this weekend. The Valencia street circuit has good memories for me, because I had a great start here, winning the very first race held in 2008, having started from pole position. I missed the 2009 event of course and then I was competitive again last year, having a good race until the well documented incident with the Safety Car. So there are plenty of reasons to expect we can have another strong weekend this year and in the very hot conditions predicted for the next few days, the 150º Italia should get the tyres to work well too.

One of the criticisms of this street circuit was that it turned out to be very difficult to overtake other cars, but this year we have the Downforce Reduction System and, like in Canada, we have two DRS zones where we can operate it. For sure, this will change the characteristics of the race, making it much easier to overtake. However, you have to do everything you can to ensure your car is competitive throughout the whole race, because this is the direction we have seen things go this year, in that if you are not competitive then it is very easy to lose places to other cars. In the past, before DRS, even if your car was slower than the one behind, you could defend your position more easily, keeping the car behind and not getting passed.

Another interesting factor will be our tyre choice here, because for the first time this season we will be running Pirelli’s Medium compound tyre as the Prime, with the Soft, that we know well by now, as the Option. I drove with the Medium in winter testing, but it was much colder then, which means it behaved very differently and a couple of weeks ago, in Montreal, we were given the opportunity to evaluate it quickly during free practice, but the Canadian track surface is very different to the one in Valencia. If I had to sum up the new tyre, I would say it is very much like the original Hard tyre we had from Pirelli earlier this season. After a few races, they changed it, making it harder still and this Medium feels like the original Hard. The Ferrari engineers have been working intensely on adapting the car to suit the tyres, as we have struggled more with the harder end of the compound range and we will test again a modified suspension to try and make it more suited to them.

We are heading for a very busy part of the season, with a run of four races in five weeks and although Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has been competitive in the last couple of races, we will soon be heading to Silverstone which is more likely to suit our rivals who have gone better on tracks that require more aerodynamic downforce. However, we have definitely made progress in this area since the last time we were in Spain, at the Barcelona circuit and it will be interesting to see where we stand this weekend: even if Valencia is a street track, sitting somewhere between Monaco and Canada in terms of its characteristics, it still has a final high speed sector which will be an interesting indication of how much progress we have made on our car and we will get the first indications on Friday, in free practice.

 

Tackling the championship one race at a time

June 8, 2011 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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I just landed in Montreal a short while ago, having spent almost a week back at home in Sao Paolo and with just the one hour time difference between the two cities, there is no problem linked to jet lag, which is a good thing. It had been quite a while since I had been in Brazil, so I did not do much except stay at home, catching up with friends and family. As in the rest of the world, the Senna film has, not surprisingly, had a big impact here in Brazil and I went to the cinema to see it. I enjoyed it, because the director found images we had never seen before and the subject was well researched, covering not just all the highlights of Ayrton’s career, but also the political situations that developed around him. Even people with no interest in F1 have felt it was compelling viewing. Of course I also worked on my training and kept in touch with the guys back in the factory to see what developments are coming on the car. In the past, by the time you got to Canada, the shape of the championship was pretty much defined already, but now, as the calendar is so long, we cannot say anything is decided for sure yet. So, everyone in Maranello is working flat out in their respective areas to continue improving the car so that myself and Fernando can race competitively, as we showed we could in the last couple of races, even if in terms of points, I have gone through a bad patch. I hope that will come to an end in Canada.

Montreal is a place I enjoy coming to. To tell the truth, the circuit is not one of my favourites, but the city itself is great and the people are very welcoming and keen on Formula 1, with plenty of support for Ferrari among the fans. My results have not been that good here, the best being a fourth place in 2005. I also had a very good race in 2008, when I was fighting for a place on the podium until a refuelling problem at my pit stop. I then had to pass a lot of people coming through from the back of the pack to finish fifth at the flag. At the very least, I would hope to aim for my best ever Canadian GP result this weekend and to finish on the podium would be great. The track presents all sorts of interesting challenges and it is not very easy to set up the car, because the track surface evolves all through the weekend, starting off with virtually no grip at all on Friday morning. You need a car that works well over the kerbs, has good traction out of the slow turns, but this is actually a fast track, so you need good top speed too. That makes finding the best set-up and the right level of aerodynamic downforce a complex task for the drivers and the engineers. We will run quite low downforce to suit this circuit and to generate more speed and with the help of some updates on the aero front I expect we can be quite competitive. Further complicating the work is the fact that we can expect tyre degradation to be very high, so even though we have the same tyre compounds as in Monaco, don’t expect to see people attempting a one stop race this weekend.

As far as the championships are concerned, at Ferrari, we will never give up fighting. However, it is very clear that Sebastian (Vettel) is doing a great job, winning every race except one and even that time he finished second! He and his team are looking very strong, but we are tackling the championship one race at a time and everyone is still working very hard to make the car competitive so that we can continue fighting all the way to the end of the season. This coming weekend will be a very busy one for Ferrari on a global scale, because apart from the Grand Prix in Montreal, various factory supported private teams will be tackling the Le Mans 24 Hours in France in Ferrari 458 Italia and 430 GT cars. It shows just how much racing is at the very heart of everything that goes on in Maranello. Endurance racing is completely different to the sprint that is a Formula 1 race, with drivers having to race in the dark and cope with very different challenges. It’s something that I might consider one day when my Formula 1 career comes to an end and I hope all the Ferraris racing there have a successful weekend.

 

A Brazilian break

June 1, 2011 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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Given that the next race is in Canada, I’ve made the most of that to head home to Brazil, to spend a few days there with my family. The last few weeks were very busy, with three races crammed into the month of May and now a bit of a break is in order. Before flying off to Sao Paolo, I spent a day in Italy, in Parma, where I played alongside Fernando and Giancarlo in a three-way charity football tournament. Me and the other Ferrari guys were playing as part of the Telethon team, the association that raises funds for research into rare and genetic illness.

Those three races in May did not go well for me. I failed to pick up points and my biggest regret came in the last of the three, in Monaco. As Fernando showed, by fighting at the front right to the end, we had a very good potential there and I think I could have finished the race in fourth place. Unfortunately, there was the accident with Hamilton, which put me out of the running: a real shame, but there’s little point in going over it again. I said what I wanted to about the incident after the race and now it’s not worth wasting more time over it, so it’s better to look ahead.

For the spectators – and unfortunately I was one of them – the second part of the race was very exciting. It’s a shame that the red flag pretty much ended the three way battle at the front of the field ahead of schedule. The rules in this case allow tyres to be changed if the race is suspended and so the final laps lost their significance, because both Fernando and Sebastian were on reasonably fresh tyres and, in these circumstances, overtaking at Monaco is still practically impossible, even with KERS and DRS.

The weekend was marked by several accidents, the most serious being those that involved Rosberg and Perez. Nico was lucky, as he did not hit the wall at the chicane after the tunnel, but Sergio hit it hard: I am happy he is out of hospital and I hope we can see him back in action in Montreal already. It’s true that Monaco, by its very nature, will always have an element of risk attached and that particular barrier is probably the most critical point if you lose control of the car or if something breaks. We have often spoken about it in the past, because it has been the scene of several accidents and I hope a solution can be found to improve the position of the barrier at that particular point on the circuit.

There was at least one positive aspect to the weekend and that is the fact our car was much more competitive than we had seen it at the previous race. Finally, we could fight all the way to the end, even if circumstances meant that only applied to one of us. Our pace was very good and I hope that will also be the case in Canada and Valencia. We should have some new technical updates there, which along with the softer tyres, should be a help, on paper at least and then we will see what the actual situation is, starting on Friday in Montreal.

 

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