F1 Winter Break
3 minutes with…Felipe Massa
3 minutes with…Felipe Massa
Posted By:   |  31 Mar 2009   |  9:54 am GMT  |  29 comments

This is Felipe Massa looking back across the wreckage of his Sunday afternoon. With a little commentary from me at the end.

Why did you start the race on the soft tyres?
“Now it looks very simple, but before the race we were looking at all the numbers, looking at the grip that there was on Friday and on Saturday, also at measurements we took of the asphalt on Sunday, as we have done in the past. It looked like the soft was the tyre to start on. Now we can see how the race turned out, it looks easy to see the tyre situation.”

What was the problem?
“Melbourne is a track where it was very hard to make the tyres work well. There was a huge difference between the soft and hard tyres. Here we had very low grip. The soft tyres didn’t work because they had good grip to start with, then after 5 laps they were destroyed. We went with them at the start, but they were just like they had been on Friday in practice. We don’t have a lot of experience with the slick tyres, they are not like grooves, where from Friday to Sunday everything changes with the track. It was very difficult also to make the hard tyre working.

How did you react when you realised that the soft tyres were the wrong choice?
“The team decided to put one car on three stops and leave one on two stops. Unfortunately I was put on three, then the safety car came out. So that wrecked my strategy. Nevertheless, I was behind Hamilton and he ended up 4th (before promoted to 3rd by the stewards) so there was something to be done there. But then I had a problem, which made the car steer to the right (turned out to be a broken upright).

How big a disappointment is the form Ferrari showed in Australia?
“It’s been a bad start, we expected to be competitive, not like the Brawn, because the Brawn has shown itself to be on another level. But we thought we were competitive. We did a qualifying lap which was close to the third fastest, so we were competitive with the others. But we need to work.”

Did Red Bull surprise you?
“Yes, they did. They surprised me a bit in qualifying, but especially in the race. They had a good pace. “

Where do you go from here?
“Last year was had one team that was competitive with us, and that was McLaren. This year you have one team that is on another planet and they will win the championship by half way through the season if it carries on like this. And then we have the others who are more or less like us, with very small margins. We can play with them, with development and so on, but not with the Brawn. “

Reading between the lines:
Felipe is pushing the Ferrari line about Brawn, hoping that the appeal against the diffuser will succeed. I think this is unlikely.

He and the team had got used to the track evolving over a Grand Prix weekend, to such an extent that grooved soft tyres, which don’t work in Friday practice, are fine on Sunday. He expresses surprise that the slicks don’t seem to work like that.

The team got the strategy call wrong, as he admits. They did a couple of times last year as well. In fact the safety car coming out for Nakajima’s accident helped the drivers who started on soft tyres, because it negated their lost time. It turned it into an advantage to have started on softs because you then had two stints on the better tyre. This is what made Kubica so competitive.

Bottom line: team mistakes and a car which struggled on the tyres are worrying, but academic in light of the fact that both cars broke down, which is perhaps even more worrying.

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If it is going to take millions to develop a new diffuser and take XX races before the chasing teams can become competitive, I wonder if it would just be better for the chasing teams to do a Brawn: give up on this year as a lost cause and to concentrate MAINLY on getting their cars right for the 2010 season.

The no-refuelling rules will force redesigns for next year's cars ... so maybe it is better to concentrate efforts on 2010 cars, rather than chasing the 2009 Brawns hoping they will slip up. Ross is clearly going to develop his car over the season, so it is going to be hard for the other teams to close the gap, let alone overtake Brawn.

Even if teams redesign their diffusers, there's no certainty that they will catch the Brawns up in terms of performance. So why spend shed loads of money on a vague hope, when you could much better use the money to put yourself in a good position for next season?


Talk about a new way of seeing how a team like Ferrari see a race weekend, so many times we see Ferrari get it right and take the win, but last weekend it was the opposite.

Wrong calls, and everything just worked against them. I have a feeling they were trying so many things to get them close to the Brawn cars and it ended up over driving a new car.

As you said in the last line, having both cars in DNF land is a major for them. They will be like Mclaren and be in a development battle never seen before.


Felipe rather likes to make the point that Braun GP could win the title halfway through the season. In reality this is highly unlikely because the factory teams will spend so much money on the aero that most of their performance deficit, at least, should be reduced fairly soon. However he knows perfectly well that, if anything will influence the decision of the Court of Appeal, it is the dreadful spectre of a team departing from the script, which sets in concrete the resolution of the title chase on the very last race of the season. The prospect of anything other than that coming to pass is too horrifying to even contemplate, given the cost of staging each and every grand prix event, and the potential losses organisers could face if the late season races are poorly attended. Expect some fast footwork, and/or desperate fudging, on 14th April to attempt to stave off the looming, but imaginary, apocalypse.


I think that's the first interview I've ever heard from Massa that doesn't include the phrase "for sure".

In fact F1 is riddled with drivers constantly saying "For sure". Alonso does it, I've heard Kubica, Hamilton and a host of other drivers saying it too.

What's wrong with the word "yes"? Or is there some secret sweepstake between drivers to see how many times they can all say "for sure" in one race weekend!?

Anyway back to your point James, it seems Melbourne is one circuit where Ferrari often make "mistakes". Don't read the situation well, track temperatures, strategies, etc. It could just be coincidence of course but it appears Melbourne just isn't their circuit. At least in recent years.


How does Bridgestone decide which compounds to bring to races? Do they consult with the Teams, or just make their own choice and say, "Here you go, have fun!"


“Last year was had one team that was competitive with us" = Last year with the help of the stewards we managed to be competitive for the title.


I just have a feeling that there is something to do with the management, it seems they just can't find the right direction with tires, strategy etc. I was suprised last year that they couldn't solve Kimi's understeer problem throughout the whole season and the tyre troubles. In Melbourne they had the most reliability problems amongst all of the teams. Worrying indeed. Also, the tires should have wider operational window, it is a shame that races are decided by tires and not the drivers.


What on earth is the point of forcing drivers to race for part of the time on a tyre which is useless after a handful of laps? I find this baffling. It adds a completely random and unfair complicating factor into the equation which doesn't enhance the racing one bit. These tyre rules are becoming frankly ridiculous.


[ It sounds as though you guys would feel more at home at Pedants' Corner in Private Eye than Copse Corner at Silverstone. So just for you here's a link to the Eye's most recent running gag for pedants & grammarians.. - Moderator ]


How dare you associate us with that unsavoury football pseudo names thing!

Anyway everybody know you need to be at Stowe not Copse to see the good stuff at Silverstone.

Hurrumph! And that Silverstone has never been the same since those killjoys put in Vale all those other silly twiddly bits. Used to be the fastest track in the series now my granny could drive it blindfold with one hand and a G and T in the other. 😉

Talking of pseudo names, O great mod in the Web, why do you keep changing yours?

[ I was optimistically setting up new log-ins in the hope of having some help around here and I clean forgot that I had logged in using the J1Pitboss pseudonym ... ooops! - Moderator ]


Just curious....why doesn't any of Felipe's quotes here don't have his trade mark "for sure" ?!! No offense, but Felipe really cant seem to start a sentence without those two words!!


It just goes to show you can't be too careful!

Love the blog btw - has become my first go-to-site for my F1 fix on the web!


Why does Felipe keep pointing out that he was put on a three stopper and not Kimi? He always seems to be complaining about something. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Kimi the fastest from the two? For sure (he-he), it would make sense to keep Kimi on the 2 stop strategy. If it wasn't for the spin, he would had most likely had a posium.


in the political world that f1 is would it not be feasible to think that if brawn is racing away with the season ie : 3x1-2 that they will change the rules to bring them back to the chaser's.Remember the s*&t that the world media gave the championship when Ferrari ran away with it in 2004.Bernie was so unimpressed he changed the points scoring.I personal think it would be hilarious if mclaren , renault, ferrari and bmw came out, if after the appeal goes against them and say there going to put all there efforts into next season so they'l hit the ground running at the beginning of the new season . Bernies expression would be priceless.



I think you have made a very good point there.

If Brawn maintains their form for more then 3 races and teams don't make much progress, then I think most of the teams will start working on next year car and stop this year car development.

And that would make f1 looks really bad. Bernie won't like it. The races will be poorly attended due to the lack of competition.

So I wander what Bernie and FIA would do if that happens.

Nice blog by the way James


For sure - it's "easy flat" too!


Hear hear !


It was the same during the Schumacher era when he couldn't get through a press conference with uttering at least a half a dozen "honestly" and "obviously" per answer. The other drivers soon aped his limited vocabulary.


"I’m beginning to sound like an F1 lawyer preparing his next brief on diffusers … - Moderator"

More like a greengrocer covering up his habitual apostrophe clanger by comparing apples with oranges. 🙂

Next Sir, you'll be confusing Anoraks and Pedants!

(...or worse: With Petrol-heads)

Hoods Up for the next round Gents!


As I recall it, the dispute over the accurate spelling of Pedants'/Pedant's Corner was itself the matter for such debate in the columns of the Eye that it eventually spawned its own regular slot -- though the Pseuds continue to be rightly lampooned elsewhere in the journal. How I see it is that it must take-one to know-one -- and in that case there is bound to be more than just one pedant fighting his or her corner, hence the plural ... Crikey! I'm beginning to sound like an F1 lawyer preparing his next brief on diffusers ... - Moderator


Next year we'll see a return to the Prost era -- with no refuelling stops, you no longer get tyre stops for free, so the pendulum shifts to trying to preserve tyres as much as possible.

Oh, and we'll go back to the sub-5 seconds lightning stops. Whee! Would really advantage the teams with lightning-fast pit crews.


For sure evrybody in F1 seems to be saying this 😉



It sounds as though you guys might feel more at home at Pedants’ Corner in Private Eye than Copse Corner at Silverstone. So just for you here’s a link to the Eye’s most recent running gag for pedants & grammarians.. - Moderator"

Absolutely! Formerly "Pseud's Corner" in our Sixth Form days.

PS: Excuse me, but surely: "Pedant's Corner"... unless you're a greengrocer?


I too have noticed the "for sure" aspect of Formula 1, infact whenever I hear it I have to repeat it out loud in a dodgy dutch accent for some reason.

I guess it's one of those words/phrases that translates well, but it's used do much that even the British people say it a lot (Blundell for instance).

Another that is used a lot is "fantastic", especially by Schuey.


Mattanddebz, please, "for sure" is required F1 driver-speak, so don't knock it! It is now apparently an essential part of the make-up of being a grand prix driver. Used to be used a lot by tennis pros too. To be fair I think it is probably more likely to be used by non-native english speakers who can be forgiven for wrongly assuming it is in common usage. It hasn't been for a long time.

A similar phenomenon (although far worse) exhibited by another group of professionals is the ritual mangling of the english language by historians who refuse ever to use the past tense when describing historical events. Unsurprisingly it frequently makes it difficult to figure out what the hell they're going on about and it even confuses themselves to the degree they often don't even perform the silly ritual consistently.

It would be interesting to have a prize for the driver who can rack up the largest number of public "for sure's" by the end of the season.


My take on "for sure" is that it's an Anglicisation of terms like "bien sur" which should more correctly be translated as "of course". But then you get people like Lewis using it as well! For sure, it must have rubbed off on him...

Ban this sick grammatical misuse now!


Certainly, undoubtedly, indisputably, definitely etc.


Well if a few teams take this option it leaves a gap for those that don't to claim 2nd, 3rd, etc and the cash associated with these places in prizes and sponsorship is huge.

There are a few outcomes that can come from the appeal. They could be deemed legal but then the rules 'clarified' making them illegal from then on, or vice-versa.

If the teams stop and wait, it'll cost them another couple of weeks, and that's at least one more race.


The tyres (sic) were deliberately designed to have a large difference in performance between the two types of rubber taken to any venue. This was to make for more variability in races and encourage the teams to think. They need to be able to use two types of compound so the suspension, setups will be a compromise. But the front wing has or may have variable flaps and most teams have not started using the benefit of them at all.

The driver's ability to manage his tyre wear rate disappeared to a large degree when pit stops were re-introduced. Prost and co often slow at the start, eventually won because they preserved their tyres and were able to overtake half the field much later in the race when others had no grip left. So I would say that it is now more down to the driver's skill and smoothness than before.


It sounds as though you guys might feel more at home at Pedants' Corner in Private Eye than Copse Corner at Silverstone. So just for you here's a link to http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=pseudo_names&issue=1232" rel="nofollow">the Eye's most recent running gag for pedants & grammarians.. - Moderator

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