Felipe Massa was once a Formula One World Champion – albeit for 30 seconds, before Lewis Hamilton broke Brazilian hearts with his last gasp overtake on Timo Glock to steal his maiden crown. That day at Interlagos in 2008 marks the last time that Massa stood atop the podium. As he enters his 15th season in F1 and his third with Williams, many are asking whether he has what it takes to win again.
A similar question has been regularly aimed at his Williams team recently. Formerly a dominant force in the sport, the Grove squad slipped into midfield obscurity with a dire 2013 campaign indicating just how far the team had fallen. It was a bitter pill to swallow, particularly given that victory in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix suggested that a fight-back was imminent.
The regulation change for 2014 and the dominance of the Mercedes powertrain helped Williams back to the front of the field. The third place they secured that year was cemented last season, albeit in less convincing fashion, with fewer podiums along the way.
This season, Williams are looking to resume their battle with Ferrari. Whether that will be enough for them to overhaul the Mercedes advantage remains to be seen. If Massa is to add to his 11 victories, he needs the FW38 to be a step up from its predecessor. Evidence from testing is inconclusive, but ultimately, Williams are notorious for flying under the radar when times are irrelevant.
In his intra-team dice with Valtteri Bottas, Massa turned the tables last year, eclipsing his comparatively inexperienced counterpart on numerous occasions. Bottas, who is looking for his first Grand Prix victory this season will undoubtedly be hungry, meaning that Massa will have to be hungrier – a challenge, given the success that the 34 year-old has already enjoyed during his long career.
When asked whether he was still hungry in a Q&A feature on the Official F1 website, Massa stated, “I am. I have the hunger to do better; to eliminate what was not working so well the year before. Because if you do the same as the year before – if you stall – that very likely is the habit that gets you out. So yes, I am still very hungry to be strong and competitive – to be counted among the best.”
His move to Williams has seen his stock rise once again. Massa was undoubtedly stifled in the final year’s at Ferrari. Ever since the famous team orders were delivered at the 2010 German Grand Prix, the Brazilian never looked likely to return to the top step of the podium – if ever Ferrari had a chance of victory, it seemed inevitable that Fernando Alonso would scoop the 25 points, on pace or indeed other means.
At Williams, Massa is revitalized. If they can provide him with a car capable of race victories, he will get an opportunity to take an illusive 12th victory. Melbourne may provide clues in regards to whether it will be possible in 2016.