Saturday, March 26, 2011

Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa (born 25 April 1981) is a Brazilian Formula One racing driver. He finished second in the 2008 Drivers' World Championship, and is under contract to race for Scuderia Ferrari until the end of the 2012 season. Born in São Paulo, Massa is a Brazilian whose grandfather emigrated from Cerignola, Italy. Massa began karting when he was 8 years old, finishing fourth in his first season. He continued in national and international championships for 7 years, and in 1998 moved into Formula Chevrolet, finishing the Brazilian championship in fifth place. During the following season, he won 3 of the 10 races and claimed the championship. In 2000, he moved to Europe to compete in the Italian Formula Renault series, winning both the Italian and the European Formula Renault championships that year. He could have moved to Formula Three, but instead chose the Euro Formula 3000, where he won 6 of the 8 races and the championship. He was then offered a Formula 1 test with the Sauber team, who signed him for 2002. He also drove for Alfa Romeo in the European Touring Car Championship as a guest driver. In his rookie year in Formula 1, Massa was paired with 1999 International Formula 3000 champion Nick Heidfeld. He proved he was a competitive driver, but made several mistakes, including spinning off the track several times. Nevertheless, Massa scored 4 championship points in his first season, his best result a 5th place at the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. He suffered a one race suspension late in the season, forcing him to miss the United States Grand Prix. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Sauber's former driver drove for Massa in his place. Massa returned to the driver's seat for the Japanese Grand Prix, but Sauber confirmed that Frentzen would partner Heidfeld in 2003, leaving Massa without a race seat. Instead, He spent a year with Sauber's engine suppliers, Ferrari, gaining experience by testing for the championship-winning team. Sauber then re-signed Massa for the 2004 season. In 2004, he scored 12 of Sauber's 34 points, his best result was a fourth place at the Belgian Grand Prix. Giancarlo Fisichella scored the team's other 22 points. Massa remained at Sauber in 2005. Though he scored only 11 points, he outpaced his teammate Jacques Villeneuve through most of the season, and beat him in the drivers' championship. After Sauber was taken over by BMW, Massa was released and replaced by his former team-mate Heidfeld. In 2006, Massa re-joined Ferrari, paired with Michael Schumacher.

Massa topped the time sheets on five occasions and set the fastest lap for four circuits during the 2007 pre-season testing. However, his 2007 season began with problems. At the season opening Australian Grand Prix, he suffered a gearbox problem during qualifying and required an engine change. Massa started the race from 22nd position due to these problems and a 10-grid-slot penalty for the engine change. He employed a one pitstop strategy for the race and finished in sixth place. Massa endured a terrible first race weekend of his third year at Ferrari. The team, surprisingly, looked off the pace as Massa qualified fourth and his race was even less successful, spinning off at the first corner of the first lap, on lap 26 he collided with David Coulthard and eventually retired due to engine failure. Felipe Massa gave Ferrari's 2009 challenger – the F60 – its shakedown test at Mugello on 12 January 2009. Ferrari confirmed that it would equip the F60 with KERS several days before the season opening Australian Grand Prix. Friday practice session did not begin so well for Massa as he recorded the 7th and 10th fastest times. Saturday qualifying fared little better as he lined up 7th (although was promoted to 6th as Glock's Toyota was disqualified). In the race the Ferrari's poor ability to handle its tyres lead to their aggressive race strategy of super soft/medium/medium compounds paying little dividends after the first 6 laps (where the Ferraris moved to the front of the pack). Although Massa managed to stay in the top 3 for the first half of the race, the exceptionally quick graining of the super soft tyres forced him into a 3 stop strategy. Before he was able to complete the race a mechanical problem forced him to retire. Massa started the 2010 season with a second place finish in Bahrain behind team-mate Fernando Alonso, despite having to save fuel in the last 22 laps.At the Australian Grand Prix, Massa was appointed a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association. Massa qualified fifth for the race, which was marked by changeable weather conditions and ten non-finishers. He finished third, largely managing to steer clear of the chaos. After the race, Massa commented cheerfully that it had been an unusually good start to the season for him. Third was his best ever finish at Melbourne. After a storming drive to 7th from 21st on the grid in Malaysia, he took the lead in the world championship. However, a disappointing ninth in China meant that he dropped back to sixth in the standings.Massa will again drive for Scuderia Ferrari in 2011, and again will be partnered by Fernando Alonso. He drove his new car – the Ferrari F150th Italia – for the first time on 29 January 2011, undertaking a shakedown of the car at the Fiorano Circuit.

Felipe Massa married Anna Raffaela Bassi on November 30, 2007, in São Paulo, Brazil. The couple's first son, Felipinho (Felipe Bassi Massa), was born on November 30, 2009. Massa is a friend of Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille, who has dedicated several models of his watches to him (RM-005FM, RM-011). Nicolas Todt, son of Ferrari's past team principal and current FIA president Jean Todt, is Massa's manager. Though Massa supports Brazilian football team São Paulo FC, he also supports the Turkish football team Fenerbahçe that was formerly coached by Zico. On 24 August 2007, Massa said: "Zico was my childhood idol, Roberto Carlos is my best friend. I am a Fenerbahçe fan, because it is just like a Brazilian team. I love Turkey, as I won my first championship race in Turkey, it has special value for me." Massa holds a charity kart race, Desafio Internacional das Estrelas (International Challenge of the Stars) every year since 2005. Notably, many active top level Brazilian drivers have competed in the event, such as Formula One drivers Rubens Barrichello and Nelson Piquet, Jr., drivers who competed in American open wheel events such as Tony Kanaan, Mario Moraes, Felipe Giaffone, Vitor Meira, Roberto Moreno, and Gil de Ferran, and Stock Car Brasil champion Cacá Bueno. In addition, Brazilian motorcycle racer Alex Barros has competed. Michael Schumacher and Luca Badoer joined the Brazilian contingent in 2007. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Jeff Gordon and Jaime Alguersuari have also participated.

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