Felipe Massa was at a Shell press briefing in the afternoon, then to the track where he had meetings with the team, autograph sessions and media interviews (including this one with me), before making another appearance at the Ferrari party at Resorts World Sentosa’s soon-to-opened Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium.
Does he feel tired from doing all these sponsor commitments and media work?
Answering me with a smile, the 30-year-old Brazilian replied, “It’s part of our job. For sure I prefer to drive the car but I know how important it is to do these activities for our sponsors. Everything we do, we do for good reason and with pleasure.”
It is no secret that most Formula 1 drivers are not fond of media work and would rather just concentrate on driving. However, that’s not possible as the publicity is necessary in order for sponsors to gain the awareness and recognition. And we all know how important sponsors are in such a high-level money game..
There’s something interesting about Massa — he will never reject an autograph request from a kid.
“When I was seven or eight years old I bumped into Ayrton Senna in Brazil. I was so excited and I went up to him to get an autograph, but he rejected me so I was very disappointed. He was in the middle of a restaurant in a yacht club, not busy at an F1 engagement or something, so that made me feel worse. Because of that experience, now I will never reject an autograph request from a kid.”
Still, the late Senna would be Massa’s choice of a team-mate if he could pick anyone he wanted.
“In terms of competition, I will pick Senna to be my team-mate. He’s the best you can get.”
Singapore is no doubt a difficult track, with its humidity level, long hours and one corner too many (23 corners). What happens if drivers feel the urge to pee during the race?
“You mean number one (pee) or number two (poo)? Number one — I have done many times in the car during a race but number two I have never!” Massa told me.
Having been in F1 for 10 years now, Massa thinks he may not be racing at the age of 40.
“I don’t think I’ll still be racing at the age of 40 but then again that feels like a long time away. It’s difficult to see now; I need to wait and see when I’m 40. 10 years flies by quickly — I mean, I’m already in F1 for 10 years now — but that’s still 10 years from now!”
Father to one son, Massa has plans to have one more kid but has no preference for a son or a daughter. “I don’t have a preference for a son or daughter but since I already have a son, maybe a daughter will be nice?”
Will he let his daughter go racing? “RACING? For a girl? (gives me a shocked look) I guess if she really wants to, maybe I’ll let her. But to be honest this is a very masculine sport and I think the difference between men and women is quite big. Like in tennis if a guy plays against a girl, the difference will be so big. Maybe that’s why we never really see a girl competitive in F1. Maybe F1 can have a separate category for girls?”
Being in F1, living the dream and being paid to live this dream — that’s Heaven. But of course, there are two sides to everything and for this piece of Heaven drivers have to put up with sacrifices and compromises. The politics and media are two of the things that drivers probably wished they didn’t have to go through, but these are exactly the two things that will never elude the sport.
“I don’t like the politics, but it’s part of the game and nothing you can do about it. It doesn’t affect the driving though.”