The uniqueness of the Formula 1 calendar takes the drivers to nearly every corner of the planet in search for a World Champion.
For Felipe Nasr and Felipe Massa, the calendar hit home soil with the Brazilian Grand Prix taking place at the famed Interlagos Circuit.
For Williams driver Massa, a two-time winner at the track, the warmth of home has failed to cool over 12 years of racing.
“It’s always a big pleasure to be here racing at home,” Massa said during Thursday’s FIA press conference. “Where I was actually born, where I actually started learning everything about racing on the other side of the wall in the go kart track.
“And to have the chance to race here in the place that I remember going to the grandstand and standing up every lap that that Brazilian guy was passing. It’s really a dream for us to race here.
“Big welcome for Felipe [Nasr] for his first time here.”
Indeed, for rookie Sauber driver Nasr, this is not the first time at Interlagos as he took laps as a Williams reserve driver last year. However, Sunday would mark his first F1 start at home.
“It’s going to be a first experience, a whole new weekend for me,” Nasr said in the same press conference. “Being at Sauber this year — I had a little taste last year with Williams in FP1. All I can say is I cannot wait to see all this energy, the atmosphere is gong to be amazing here.”
FP1 showcased what was to come for both Nasr and Massa who each struggled on the boards, finishing 14th and 17th respectively. FP2 saw Massa break into the top ten times with a 1:13.870 – more than 1.6 seconds quicker than FP1.
The final session of FP3 ended 12th for Massa and 17th for Nasr.
Qualifying on Saturday brought a Brazilian blunder in Q1 as Nasr ‘blocked’ his countryman’s quick lap as the two approached the final corner of the 4.309-kilometre track.
“It was a difficult situation,” said Nasr, who was given a three-place grid penalty by the FIA Stewards. “I was told that all the cars around me were in a slow lap, so everybody was synchronized. When I looked in my mirrors I saw Bottas so everything was fine. I was preparing to open my lap and when I looked again it was Massa coming on a quick lap.”
Despite the stumble, Massa was able to advance to Q2 and even Q3, qualifying eighth-fastest. His teammate Valtteri Bottas was fourth-fastest, however.
“Starting in Q1, maybe Felipe didn’t see me and he just blocked my lap,” Massa said. “I almost couldn’t pass into Q2. And then in Q2 I had a yellow flag in Sector 2; I almost couldn’t pass. I was so lucky to be able to pass to Q2.”
Massa, however, continued to be skeptical of his speed for Sunday.
“This was really a problem for me in a track that normally is not a problem for me,” he added.
Before the lights went out to start the 71-lap race, it was believed that Massa’s tyres were above temperature, which subsequently led to his disqualification after toiling away to finish the race in eighth place.
“I don’t know what they are talking about,” Massa said following the race before news of his disqualification became official. “I’m sure we didn’t do anything wrong.”
As the race got underway, Massa matched his qualifying position by crossing the line in eighth place, whereas Nasr advanced from 16th to 12th in the opening three laps.
As drivers like Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull Racing took to the pit lane on Lap 4 to rid himself of the Soft tyres he started the race on, Massa pitted on Lap 11 and Nasr stretched his opening stint to Lap 15 before switching to the Medium tyre.
The pace from the Mercedes duo was among the quickest its been all season, as leader and eventual race winner Nico Rosberg lapped both Nasr and Massa before putting fifth-placed Bottas off the lead lap later on.
Nasr was in the center of some interesting racing moments as he battled the likes of Pastor Maldonado and Max Verstappen for positions inside the points.
Although he spent a healthy time in the top 10, Nasr eventually dropped to 14th place – his ninth non-points finish in the last twelve races.
Massa, much like teammate Bottas, held his ground through the event, finishing eighth.
The final result was the worst for the 34-year-old at Interlagos since 2010. In Massa’s mind, it was a “weekend to forget.”
“[I’m] not happy at all,” Massa simply said, when asked about his race.
“It was a really frustrating result for me here. Nothing compares with this amazing support from the people. For sure, my race today was maybe one of the Brazilian races to forget for me. During the whole weekend I was struggling massively.”
Despite the disappointing weekend, Massa took notice as Williams clinched third place in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
“I think the only positive thing is that we are third in the championship,” he said. “I think that is really a positive for the whole team.”
Massa has his eyes set on the season finale at Abu Dhabi in two weeks as well as getting a head start on 2016.
“I think we just have to finish the championship,” he concluded. “I really hope in a completely different result than what I had here.
“I would say concentrate 100 per cent on next year. Concentrate to prepare the car and having even a better car than what we had this year. [With a] more competitive car we can maybe be fighting more in the front every race. That’s the target.”
Images via XPB Images