Felipe Massa became the eighth most experienced driver in Formula 1 history at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, passing Giancarlo Fisichella’s total Grand Prix starts of 231.
The Brazilian has seen multiple changes to the regulations over the years, driving through the V10, V8, and the V6-turbo eras, as well as nine changes to qualifying during his time as a Formula 1 driver.
We caught up with Felipe at the Australian Grand Prix to have a talk about all of these new rules, as well as touching on family and politics.
How was pre-season testing for Williams?
It was alright, I think we did many laps and we understood the car at the start of the season, and we did some good lap times, some consistent lap times. I think we’re not 100% sure where we are in the championship at the moment compared to the other teams, but I think we can be competitive and I really hope we are.
With changes to qualifying coming in this season, where does that sit with you? Are you a fan?
I don’t know, there’s the changes on qualifying, tyres, radio messages, so it’s a change for everybody to learn as quickly as you can. I’m not against it, I’m ready to learn and ready to do the best that I can to achieve a good result. I think that if it’s better for the people it’s better for Formula 1.
Do you feel you have enough freedom with the tyre choices given the new regulations? Both you and Valtteri [Bottas] chose the same amount of compounds for this weekend.
I don’t know if it will change massively. Maybe it can change sometimes. I don’t think that we have much freedom with that, so we need to choose the best for the team.
Going back to the new radio clampdowns, will the restrictions have much of an effect on you as a driver throughout a race?
No I don’t think so, I think the mentality of driving is similar, the only thing is that it will have a big impact because there’s so many things you need to change in the car that you need to do yourself and nobody can tell you what to do. For sure we changed so many things that it should have been easier for the drivers, but it will be a little bit trickier. So I hope my experience can help more in this area, for which whatever reason you can understand things quicker, I’m not sure with the young guys or not. But I think we need to first of all know.
You can use your experience in the race, but there are certain scenarios where you can’t for example in qualifying, you’re not allowed to be told of the traffic out on circuit. Do you think that’s fair?
Well I think more or less in qualifying you understand your position and the lap time that you did. So if you did a very very bad lap time because of the traffic – which can happen, I think the traffic will be the biggest problem in qualifying especially in Q1 – so I think you understand more or less if you are in the limit to pass or not.
Given that you’re a veteran of Formula 1, what are some of the best and silliest rules that you’ve raced under?
Silly? I’m not sure. I think they’re all really fine.
For the next season, do you think Formula 1 is heading in the right direction? What is your opinion on the changes coming in 2017 and beyond?
I think we need some change, but I don’t know if all of these changes that people are talking about will be the correct ones. So I think if you just make the car five seconds quicker, maybe overtaking will be worse, people want to see the fight on the track. Even if it’s five seconds quicker or slower, but if you’re losing overtaking for sure people will complain. So I think the most important change will be to make Formula 1 closer with better fights. So this is changes that we need to hopefully have in Formula 1, but they haven’t decided yet on the changes to Formula 1.
What would you change if they came to the drivers individually and asked what you would like to see in the future for Formula 1?
I think maybe the cars closer in terms of lap times. For sure it would be nicer to watch the race with much better fights, we know it’s quite difficult to find the right solution because you have so much technology around, so much politics around, so many rules around, sometimes it’s hard to have the right answer for that.
Do you think F1 needs to scale the rules back a bit to help fans understand the sport a bit more?
Reliability didn’t look too bad for Williams, what is the main focus for this season in terms of development from last year?
The downforce. Aerodynamics as well. We really need to push hard and that’s what we’re doing, the area we can improve on is the aero, so that’s what we have to do to improve our car.
Your son is now six years old, is he starting to take an interest in racing himself? What sort of advice would you give him entering racing?
Maybe, I think first of all he needs to decide what he wants to do, I don’t want to decide anything for my son because I don’t think that’s correct. I want to be – and I am – the father, not somebody that is pushing their son to do something that you want them to do, I just want him to be happy, to be educated, to respect people, and to do what he wants to do. I will push him, if he wants to be a driver I will try to help him and teach him in the best way that I learned, but if he wants to do other things, I will do the same.
What would be the one piece of advice you would give yourself back in 2002?
I think maybe sometimes I was too nice. Maybe I would have been a bit more… maybe I’d have a different personality, it depends on the year. But I can say I’m happy, I am a happy guy and that is the most important thing.
What are your thoughts on the Brazilian Stock Car Stewarding scandal? Have you been following that much?
I follow it all the time, I have so many friends racing there. It’s terrible, I think it’s not just a problem of the Brazilian Stock car, it’s a problem of our country. So if you see what’s happened yesterday, people are going to the road to try and fight against the politics and fight against our President. I think our Federation is completely behind for a long time. Not just our Federation but so many things in our politics which needs to be changed, like it needs to be deleted and started again.
Images via George Hitchens Photography