GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #43 - Felipe Massa

01-02-2020 19:00
by Adam Newton
F1 News
GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #43 - Felipe Massa

Hello there once again and we’re back again with GPBlog’s Top 50 drivers in 50 days. We’re counting down our top 50 F1 drivers of all time in the 50 days before the first race of the 2020 season. Yesterday we focused on Stefan Bellof and you can read that here, but today is a name you’ll probably know better, Felipe Massa.

World champion for about a minute, Massa is surely the victim of the most heartbreaking title defeat in recent memory. Massa was a very talented driver and if it wasn’t for that famous last corner overtake from Lewis Hamilton, his name would’ve been written into F1 folklore.

An impressive junior career led to Sauber taking a punt on the 20-year old for the 2002 season and looked good almost immediately, scoring his first points finish in just his second race in Malaysia.

Further points followed in Spain and the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, but Sauber opted to sign Heinz-Harald Frentzen instead, leaving Massa without a drive.

He became Ferrari’s test driver, setting himself up for the future before returning to Sauber in 2004 and was more consistently in the points, as he was in 2005.

With Rubens Barrichello moving on from Ferrari, Massa was given the call to replace his fellow Brazilian and partner Michael Schumacher the following year.

He started slowly in his new surroundings, only troubling the podium once in the first half of the season, but he came into his own in the second half.

Consecutive podiums in USA, France and Germany preceded a maiden victory in Turkey, where he also took his first pole position.

Another victory was to follow, this time an emotional one at the final race of the season in Brazil. Winning a home race is always special, but there’s something different when a Brazilian does it, with the crowd going crazy for their new star.

Schumacher retired at the end of 2006, and Massa was joined by McLaren star Kimi Raikkonen for 2007. There wasn’t many bigger challenges at the time than being Raikkonen’s teammate, especially after just one season at a top team.

Both Massa and Raikkonen trailed the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in a four way title battle for the majority of the season, with Massa taking wins in Bahrain, Spain and Turkey.

It was only a late season surge from Raikkonen that brought the title to Ferrari, with Massa ending the season down in fourth.

2008 was almost Massa’s season. Engaged in a season long battle with Hamilton, he took six victories across the season, including another Brazilian victory, although it wasn’t all smiles just seconds after he crossed the line, as Hamilton gained the position needed to snatch the title at the last corner.

In 2009, Brawn and Red Bull produced better cars than the Italians and Massa’s season was cut short by a nasty head injury when he was hit by a piece of Barrichello’s suspension in Hungary.

He returned in 2010 but was never the same, playing second fiddle to Alonso.

A late career move to Williams yielded some more podiums and glimpses of what he could do, including a terrific pole in Austria but his best days were beyond him, and he retired at the end of 2017.

Massa was a top class driver on his day and was unfortunate not to have taken the 2008 title. Sadly he will be remembered as the victim of that moment, and not the champion he could have been.

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