Massa's Blog

After two good races we have to continue in this direction

March 31, 2010 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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Another great result for us in Melbourne and overall, a fantastic start to the season, with the team leading both championships. I had quite a tough weekend in Albert Park, so to start fifth and finish third, to get my second podium finish in a row meant I was really happy on Sunday night. Why the tough time? Because as soon as conditions got cooler, which meant from Friday afternoon practice onwards, I struggled to get my tyres up to the best operating temperature. Fernando didn’t seem to have that difficulty, which means it is probably down to a difference in our driving styles - maybe I’m a bit less aggressive - and the way we like to set up our cars. You have to also consider that the tyres were very hard, which is why we did almost the entire race, around fifty laps apart from a few early laps in the wet, on the softer of the two types. The fact we still managed to bring home a good total of points will be very important for this championship when we get to the later stages.

The race itself was very enjoyable and good fun and I’m sure the people in the grandstands and at home liked having so much action to watch. I seemed to spend a lot of time being passed by or passing Webber! He overtook me when I made a mistake and he was able to get a tow from my slipstream, also helped by the fact that, in those first twenty laps on slicks, my grip level was quite low. But as my tyres degraded, I found more front grip and could keep him behind him.

I stayed in Melbourne until Monday evening, going out with some friends on Sunday night and Tuesday I have arrived in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia at this time of year is very hot and sticky, making the race itself very tough in terms of your physical condition. I make a point of training outdoors rather than in the gym, running and doing other exercises, so that I get used to working in the hot conditions. And you make sure you go easy on the air conditioning, as the offices at the track can be so cold, it can cause problems.

In 2009 this race started at five in the afternoon, the same as Australia and I’m glad the organisers have brought forward the start by one hour. Last year, it was a shame for us that because of the tropical storm, the race could not be restarted, because the visibility was no longer good enough by the time the track conditions would have been safe enough for a re-start. Let’s hope we don’t have that problem this time, as it is also unfair on the spectators if they don’t get to see a real race. In fact, I think we need to look again at the start time in Melbourne for the future, as visibility was beginning to be a bit of an issue towards the end of the race.

The Sepang track is very different to Albert Park and it will be interesting to see if the Red Bulls are still very competitive on this circuit also. Hopefully, we can push them harder and pick up our pace a little bit. We must wait until practice starts to get a clearer picture. We have had two good first races and now we must keep working in this direction and bring home as many points as possible, whatever the situation in Sepang.

 

Travelling three continents

March 24, 2010 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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Wow, that was a long journey! The trip from Brazil to Melbourne is the longest one of the year and you really feel you have crossed the world by the time you get to passport control in Melbourne Airport. I arrived in Australia at around one in the morning Tuesday, having left Brazil on Sunday. At the moment, I feel pretty much okay after flying for thirteen hours from Sao Paolo to Dubai and then another ten hour flight to here. It’s not just tiring because it is a long journey, but also because of the jet lag and the time difference can affect you if you do not know how to deal with it. The important thing is to always consider what the time is at your destination, so when I got on the first plane, I slept for about ten hours out of the thirteen. Then in the second plane, I tried not to sleep at all to be awake during Australian daytime. Once I got to my hotel here in Melbourne, I then slept again from four to ten in the morning.

I felt pretty good and after waking up, I went to the gym and worked up a good sweat doing some running because physical exercise really helps get over the jet lag. Then, in the afternoon, I went for a walk in the city, which I love to do, because there is a lot to see here and also because being out in the sunshine is reckoned to be another good cure for dealing with tiredness because of the different time zone. In fact, I will do some sort of training every day now before we start driving at the track on Friday.

I enjoyed being home in Brazil since the Bahrain Grand Prix and made the most of it to catch up with friends and spend time with the family. After Malaysia, we will move back to Monaco for most of the season, so it was important to have this time in Sao Paolo. Almost every day, I was keeping in touch with my engineers back at the factory in Maranello and I know that the team has been working hard since Bahrain on two fronts: firstly on sorting out the difficulty we had with engine cooling and secondly with our plan for race by race improvement to the whole car package. All the news from Italy seemed positive, so maybe we will have something good to talk about this weekend, which would make a change from Australia as neither myself nor the Scuderia has enjoyed a particularly successful race weekend here over the past couple of years. If we had some technical issues in Bahrain, the way the team operated at the track for the first race worked well, so we will continue in the same direction this weekend. We need to see what happens with the weather as I have heard there is a chance of rain on Sunday. We also need to get an early understanding of how the different types of tyre work here and that’s something we will know more about by the end of Friday practice. Even though I haven’t had much luck here, I enjoy driving this track. The race can often be full of incidents and we will need to plan for all eventualities, as we have seen the Safety Car appear here quite often.

I’m looking forward to getting to the Albert Park circuit, as there is always a real buzz about the place, especially if you are a Ferrari driver, because we get so much support from the Australian fans, including the large Italian community here in Melbourne.

 

We started the best possible way

March 18, 2010 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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It would be impossible to have a better start to a season than to take maximum points from the race and that’s exactly what Fernando and I managed in Bahrain. I had waited so many months for this first race, but I was excited rather than nervous about sitting on an F1 start grid for the first time since last year’s German GP. I never had any doubt about my condition, because everything I did felt exactly the same as it did before my accident. When I was fitness training, it was all going in the right direction and all the activities I did in normal life were as before. All I had in mind was to do a good job for everyone, to get a good start for the season, not to do anything silly. It’s always important to go well on the first race weekend, but in my case it was even more important, because if I had made a mistake, some people would have immediately said, “you see, he is not the same as before.” That would not have been nice because even if I had made a mistake, it was not going to be connected to my accident at all. Anyway, as it turned out, the first race weekend went very well for me and for the team: that was down to the fact we have a good car and the team did a perfect job over the weekend in Bahrain.

The only problem I had was the engine running hot during Sunday’s race. We had to manage the situation as best we could, which meant I had to run a richer fuel mixture for around thirty laps, which therefore increased consumption. As a consequence, I had to try and save fuel, changing my driving style in some areas. Now the team is working flat out to make sure this problem does not reoccur in other situations.

The Bahrain weekend confirmed what we knew from February testing, namely that there are four teams at the front, Red Bull, us, McLaren and Mercedes. We were pretty happy with our car and we did a good job in qualifying, even if Red Bull took pole, going slightly quicker. In the race, the Red Bull maybe had a slight edge on the softer tyre and we had the advantage on the harder one. In testing, the Red Bull might not have been the quickest car in terms of lap times in winter testing, but I had noticed their pace over the longer runs had been very strong, so its speed in Bahrain qualifying was not a surprise. Overall, we were very similar and that reinforces the need to try and improve our car at every race through the season. It is a very close competition between us so this development work will be more important than ever.

The race weekend threw up some interesting lessons and I would say we learned a lot about the tyres for example. There turned out to be a big difference between the two types we ran in Bahrain qualifying and also in the race, the hard was much better than the soft for us. We need to bring this knowledge to the next race, because we must work to understand the different levels of tyre degradation from one track to another. It is a factor that can affect race strategy in terms of choosing the right time to stop, or what tyre to use for which part of qualifying.

I have seen in the media some criticism that maybe the tyre rules and lack of refuelling made the Grand Prix boring to watch for the spectators, but I think it is too early to comment after just one race. However, it is true that the situation at the start of the race is that we are six to seven seconds slower than in qualifying. Running on very low fuel to get a good grid position, you have a massive amount of grip, but then, on Sunday, you have a very heavy car with absolutely no grip in the early laps. Added to this, if you are following someone closely, trying to overtake, you lose more aerodynamic downforce, so these two factors combined mean it is even harder to overtake.

On Sunday night, I flew home to Brazil to see my wife and son, because now that we are a family, it is harder for my wife to come with me to the races. It will be easier to have more time together after the Malaysian Grand Prix, as we will move back to Monaco for most of the season after then. I leave for Melbourne on Sunday, which is a very long flight, so arriving early on Tuesday means I have plenty of time to adapt to the different time zone and prepare for what I hope will be another successful race weekend.

 

"At last, we're off!"

March 8, 2010 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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Maranello - “It’s been a very long time since my last blog, for reasons you all know. I remember very well that I haven’t taken part in a Formula 1 race weekend since last 25 July and now I am just looking forward to getting back into it again. I am clear in my mind about the direction we must take at the start of the season after so many days of winter testing and from a personal view it is just great to be racing again.

“I agree with Stefano (Domenicali, Team Principal) when he says that after testing, we can claim to be front runners, but we must keep our feet on the ground, because we are facing a very long and tough championship. The competitors are also very strong, including those who were fighting for the title last year, like Mercedes, who won under a different name, then Red Bull and McLaren, but there are other teams such as Williams and Sauber, which has risen from what used to be BMW. There are even teams like Force India who grew in performance last year and we can expect these to be competitive as well. I think it will be a very tight and competitive and our job will be to steadily improve the car race by race.

“I have a new team-mate this year and although the one car test rule meant we never drove on the same day, we have got to know one another well over the winter. We worked together on the debriefs and in most cases, Fernando and I seem to have similar opinions about the way to move forward. I think things are going well between us; he is a nice guy and a great driver and I am sure we will work together very well. Once again, my team-mate is a world champion, a double world champion actually! I am fine with that and I regard it as a positive element for the team. As a driver, you don’t think about beating your team-mate, you are looking to beat all the drivers on the grid and in the championship. I think it is much better to have two good drivers in the same team as it means the team can improve more quickly, with a better direction in terms of its development. For the past few years of my career, I have always had very strong team-mates and so nothing has changed for this year.

“It will be interesting to see how the new rules, specifically the lack of refuelling, will affect the races. At the last Barcelona test, I was able to complete a full race simulation, which went well, as there were no red flags to interrupt it. The car felt strong, it was quick and consistent and the tyres worked well whatever the fuel load; heavy at the start and getting progressively lighter. It was hard to make an accurate comparison to other teams’ race simulations, as we had a choice of three different Bridgestone tyres at the test, rather than the two we will have at the races. But in general, the signs were encouraging. The most important factor was that the car ran reliably, which is particularly important in the early stages of the season. The car was also quick with low fuel, in qualifying trim. Running on full tanks is an interesting challenge: as a racing driver, you always want your car to be as quick as possible, which means a car with a low fuel load, which gives you more grip and the difference between full tanks and the minimum fuel can be as much as six second per lap, depending on the circuit. The difference is huge, like having two different cars, but an efficient car should be good in both configurations. Fuel consumption will therefore be another key factor this year. If your car is less fuel efficient and needs to carry fifteen kilos more fuel than another car, that equates to three or four tenths of a second per lap. With this in mind, we worked very hard with Shell, since the middle of last year, to improve the fuel consumption of our engine, without affecting power and reliability. Fuel strategy will also be important, because you really don’t want to finish a race and find there is still ten litres in the car, because that means you have been carrying extra tenths for every lap. It will be very interesting to see how this situation develops.

“As a driver, I don’t really mind which race is the first on the calendar, but I have to say, it will be good to kick off the season in Bahrain, as it is special to me, because I have won twice round the Sakhir circuit. However, this year, the track layout has been changed significantly, making it a much longer lap, so that will be a new challenge for all of us. The most important thing at the opening race, at whatever track, is to start in the right direction, scoring points and getting a good result.

“Not only will this be my first race in a long time, it will also be my first race since I became a father. I know that our founder, Enzo Ferrari is reported to have said that, once a driver has children he gets slower. I have to disagree with him! Just ask Michael (Schumacher.) I think you will find he won more races and titles with two children at home, than when he did not have kids. I am really enjoying being a father, as it is an incredible feeling and in fact is even more of a motivation in my life and makes me work even harder at my job. It is a positive aspect which I hope will bring me some extra luck in my career.

“Before leaving for Bahrain, I got the opportunity to take part in an event organised by our new sponsor, the Santander Bank, at the Interlagos circuit, which involved me driving the F2008, the car with which I won the Brazilian Grand Prix two years ago. Now I can't wait to get behind the wheel of the F10 at Sakhir next Friday. ”

 

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