The week of the Brazilian Grand Prix is always packed with appointments for Felipe Massa, be they TV appearances, sponsor events or meetings with the team. But today Felipe wanted to do something different and, thanks to support from the Santander Bank, he organised a kart race with unusual opponents. These were very different from the fellow drivers with whom he ends the season at his ‘International Challenge of the Stars’ – the event that Felipe himself created and which will also take place this year at the circuit of Florianopolis on December 3-4.
At the Granja Viana kart circuit, the stage for the 500-mile race of the same name on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, it was the representatives of the Brazilian media who took to the track. This was their chance to compare themselves with the Ferrari driver in equal equipment – and vice versa. Everyone was at the wheel of the same type of kart, with the extra advantage of having the pole man – Felipe, naturally – put to the back of the grid. The race took place first on a dry track and then in the rain (an early taster of what we will see on Sunday in Interlagos?
The weather forecast is certainly far from encouraging for the weekend). Its outcome was taken for granted because Felipe quickly gained back the 25 positions that he had ahead of him at the start, ending up winning by a gap of 36 seconds. But the battle between the journalists was intense: Lucas came out the winner in the end after he breezed past Rafael Munhoz to take the chequered flag by little more than half a second, while Grunwald took the third spot on the podium. “It was very enjoyable to race against the press,” smiled Felipe at the end of the race. “They were different opposition to normal and I’m sure they will have had the chance to understand how difficult it is to be at the steering wheel on a track when it suddenly starts raining!”
The Granja Viana race was the first chance for the local media to speak to Felipe heading into his home race, the final date of an exacting season for the Ferrari driver, which has not gone without criticism. “After such a difficult year there could be nothing better than to race at Interlagos,” said Felipe. “It will be great to race with the support of the crowd on the track where I started racing and where I’ve always given my best. I’ve won twice at Interlagos and I’ve started from pole position three times: here there’s an extra motive to find the force that I’m looking for. I’m hugely determined to get my best result of the season to end it in the best way possible.”
The target is that podium placing that has eluded him since the Korean Grand Prix of last year. In 2011 Felipe’s best result is the fifth place that he has taken five times, the last of which was 10 days ago at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina. “There have been races where I could have made the podium but circumstances always conspired to prevent it. But that’s how the season has gone and I have to accept it. Now I’m totally focused on doing the best possible job in 2012. The team is also doing the same because it will be essential to have a competitive car from the beginning of the year and I’m part of this preparatory work.”
Felipe didn’t hide from the importance of next year for his career. “I well know that next year is crucial for me. I will have to do better and return to normality, which means getting back to winning and fighting for the championship,” explained the 2008 world title runner-up. “I’ve always believed in my work and my potential. I know that things will change and all this will happen.”