Massa's Blog

Budapest: an important part of my personal history

July 27, 2011 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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Looking back at the Nurburgring, before we get on the serious business of racing, I have to say I don’t think I can ever remember being that cold at a Grand Prix meeting and when you consider it was the middle of July in Europe, it was unbelievable. On the work related front, that cold weather played its part in assessing the level of improvement on the 150º Italia, because normally the low ambient and track temperatures would have been seriously against us in terms of our ability to get the tyres up to the optimal working temperature. However, at the Nurburgring, although we suffered from this problem, more obviously in qualifying, clearly it was not bad as it was a few races ago and that is a positive sign.

In the race on Sunday, our performance was very good, we ran at a strong pace and the car was competitive. At the first corner, I found myself behind Nico Rosberg and that conditioned my race, because it took me a long time to get past, as the Mercedes has excellent straight line speed and by then, the guys in front had managed to pull away. That was really my main issue on Sunday afternoon, but once I got past him, my pace was excellent and I was able to fight with those ahead of me. I had an exciting fight with Sebastian (Vettel,) while when I was battling with Webber, it was at a point where he had new tyres and I was about to come in. The fight with Sebastian went on for much of the race, right down to that final pit stop on the last lap, where unfortunately we lost out. It was a shame, but we know we still have work to do in improving some elements of the pit stop, including the wheel nut itself.

With a McLaren and a Ferrari finishing ahead of a Red Bull, there are suggestions that if we and McLaren maintain good form, then it might help us in the fight for the championship, by taking points from Red Bull. However, even if there are still nine races to go, it’s not going to be an easy battle, specifically because Sebastian has such a big lead. But we continue to fight on a race by race basis, with the aim of winning as many as possible between now and the final in Brazil.

On Wednesday afternoon, I travel to Budapest for the next round and, on current form, we can be optimistic of having another positive weekend. Adding to that feeling is the fact we will again have the Pirelli Soft and Supersoft tyres, which we know suits our car best and in Hungary, where we can expect more normal summer weather, the hot temperatures will also be on our side. In addition, our development programme is still on-going and we will have some minor updates again this weekend, which I hope will make the car even stronger.

The nature of the Hungaroring track means the race here has sometimes been a bit processional: this year for sure there will be more overtaking, not by a big amount as the main straight is not so long, but all the same, the DRS will help. Combined with the possibility of tyre degradation in the high temperatures, I think the crowd can expect a good show on Sunday with some interesting strategies to watch and certainly those conditions will suit us, as the 150º Italia is kind to its tyres in terms of degradation.

Clearly, after what happened two years ago, Budapest and the Hungarian people are an important part of my personal history and once again I plan to meet the people who helped me through that difficult time, both at the track and the hospital. Since the accident, I have a lot of fans there: I don’t think they became my fans because of the accident, but rather because I spent some time in Budapest and made a full recovery, which was like a victory for me and the people here felt part of that victory.

 

We need to keep the momentum

July 16, 2011 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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I’m currently enjoying a few days at home in Monaco after what has been a very busy time since leaving Silverstone after the last race. Looking back briefly at the British Grand Prix, my result was not the best, but I came away from England feeling very encouraged by the performance of the 150º Italia over the course of the weekend. The race itself could have gone better, but as I explained before, from quite early on, around lap 20 or so, my car picked up a piece of debris in the floor, which affected my level of downforce and reduced my pace. That in turn meant I was using the tyres more than I should which impacted on the final result. However, in general our pace at Silverstone was much better than we had expected at this circuit and that is down to an excellent job from the team and those working back in the factory. So now I expect we can continue to move forward like this in the second half of the season. Okay, as from now the rules regarding the off-throttle diffuser go back to where they were, but the suggestion that our improved performance at the last race came from the rule change is wrong: when the engine mapping was changed, I would say we were losing maybe around four tenths of a second, depending on the track. But this lack of downforce should theoretically make it more difficult to get the tyres to work, especially the hard compound, but even in this configuration, Silverstone was the first time we were able to make the hard tyres work very well. As an example, just look at the first part of qualifying at Silverstone where I was third quickest, just a tenth of a second behind the fastest man, using the hard tyre. This means that our performance level was down to all the new components and updates we brought to Silverstone and was not connected to the rule change.

I have also spent a few days in Maranello, with a busy schedule both on the technical front and with promotional work. For two days, I worked in the simulator as well as attending meetings with the engineers and I also attended the annual meeting of the Ferrari dealers, coming from all the 58 countries where the Prancing Horse is present. On Friday, I drove our 3-seater F1 car at Fiorano for a promotional event: I have driven it before and it is definitely an entertaining experience, great fun. The best part is seeing the faces of the people as they prepare to get in the car. There is no other way to say it, they are simply very scared! I also had the opportunity to drive it with my engineers in the car, which actually is very good from a work point of view, so they can understand what it is we do in the cockpit, rather than just shouting at us to go faster all the time! I have to say, my race engineer Rob Smedley was very quiet, very nervous and shaking when he got out of the car J! I also took Pat Fry and Giuliano Salvi and then I also took my wife for a ride. She has been in it before and obviously enjoyed the experience although at the moment she has a rather stiff neck.

Looking ahead to next weekend’s German Grand Prix, it is an event I enjoy and I have been on the podium four times, although three of those have been at Hockenheim and then I have two additional podiums from coming second at the Nurburgring in the 2007 European GP, after leading Fernando in the McLaren for much of the race, and third again behind Michael and Fernando in 2007, my first ever podium in the career. It is an interesting circuit, with some unusual corners, uphill and downhill and slow turns in the modified first sector. So you need good downforce, but there are also some straights where straight line speed is important and based on what we saw from our aero package in Silverstone, I have high hopes that we can continue in the right direction in Germany. As for the championship, what can I say? As long there is a mathematical possibility there is always hope. I have said it so often, but it’s still true, that at Ferrari we never give up and we keep on fighting. The best strategy is simply to think about the season one race at a time, like we did at Silverstone. Now we need to keep the momentum this weekend and then immediately afterwards in Hungary, as that comes just one week later.

 

A good car now is a good step for 2012

July 6, 2011 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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On Wednesday I fly to England for the British Grand Prix which is more or less the halfway point in the championship and for Ferrari it will be a case of seeing if it can also be a turning point, after a tough first half of 2011.

Immediately after the race in Valencia, I flew home to Monaco and then, at the end of last week, I went to Maranello for a couple of days of meetings with the engineers and work in the simulator to prepare for the next series of races. In the simulator we were working on many different elements, looking at both the Silverstone and Barcelona circuits, including the new engine maps that are now needed to fit the regulations and other areas on the car, including evaluating new components we hope to run at Silverstone this weekend. The reason we also ran a simulation using the Barcelona circuit is that the Spanish track is the “baseline” track for all our work in the simulator. We nearly always run the Catalunya track when we want to try something new.

I like coming to Silverstone which I know well, but this year it will be a bit different as they have completely relocated the paddock to another part of the track. At the most basic level, it means we are at least going to have to learn new corner numbers to use when talking to the engineers! On a more fundamental level, this change might slightly affect strategy because, depending on the length of pit lane, it might alter the overall time, either up or down, for a pit stop. We have looked at it on the simulator, but we need to experience it for real on Friday before we can be sure. Silverstone is a very famous circuit and the British Grand Prix is always an important appointment on the calendar. It has a unique atmosphere, always with a very big and happy crowd that really loves motor racing. It is always a pleasure to see the packed grandstands and, even though I am not British, I feel motivated and get a good feeling there.

The important question is how well the 150º Italia will perform here. It is true, as many people have said, that the last three circuits suited our car well, but I expect it to also perform well at Silverstone thanks to developments we have introduced, although of course the other teams will probably have done the same. I expect we will be competitive, but we must wait and see how the car works at a type of track where, earlier in the year, we were not so competitive. The reason this is important is that, if we are competitive in England, then it confirms we have improved a lot and have reduced the gap to the other teams. We will also see how much we have improved our performance with the Hard Pirelli tyres, which we have not used them since Barcelona. We will also have the Soft tyre in Silverstone as the Option and that is a good thing, because it means we have a tyre that suits us well for qualifying and maybe for a major part of the race as well. Unless we get some typical British weather and it rains, in which case I believe we can also be in good shape, as we were quick in those conditions in Canada.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether Ferrari’s championship chances are already over this early in the season. I don’t know the answer to that, but will still tackle every race in the same way, trying to win it. Getting the first win of the season is our immediate task and then trying to win more. Only at the end of the year, should we look at the championship situation. Realistically, Sebastian Vettel would need to do a really crazy job to lose the title. But we cannot give up and this situation changes nothing in our approach, because a victory is already a very nice thing to have and some wins this year would show we have done a good job. We must not forget that improving the car and its performance can also be important for 2012, because there are not so many rule changes coming which means that the car will not change completely compared to this year. A good car now and at the final race of 2011 is already a good step forward for 2012.

 

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