On this day in 1981, one of the biggest names in modern Formula 1 history was born in Sao Paulo. Let's take a look back at Felipe Massa's incredible career with Ferrari, with a special focus on one of the biggest near-misses in the history of the Prancing Horse: the 2008 Driver's Championship.
Up to this day, Felipe Massa is the third driver having raced the most GPs for Scuderia Ferrari: only Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen precede him, and both have been his teammates. Massa proved himself to be an exceptionally quick driver, scoring 16 pole positions for the Scuderia, and an outstanding team player.
After great results in the years from 2006 to 2008, the Brazilian later suffered from some serious bouts of bad luck and equally frustrating underperformance of his cars. Despite all of that, he never stopped bringing honour to the Prancing Horse, being not only a driver, but a genuine fan.
History made, for better or worse
The 2008 Formula 1 Championship is still the last Constructors' Title won by Scuderia Ferrari up until today. For a bunch of seconds, Felipe Massa was also a Ferrari World Champion. Fate, however, decided to shine its light on another driver who would later prove to be a legend in the sport. Let's see how the 2008 season went down.
Massa certainly suffered from a slow start, with two DNFs in the first two races. In Bahrain, after taking second place in qualifying, he managed to obtain the first victory of the season. After a second place in Spain, behind Kimi Räikkönen, in Turkey he took pole position and won the race. The two Ferrari drivers were at the top of the standings, divided by 7 points. The following rounds, however, proved difficult for the Brazilian, falling under an harmful combination of bad luck, technical issues and mistakes.
Massa returned to victory in France and achieved his third success of the season, reaching the top of the classification. However, at the next round in Silverstone, he stumbled into a colourless race, finishing thirteenth after spinning six times. He still managed to maintain his lead in the standings, even if on equal points with Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton. In Hungary, after dominating the whole race, he was forced to retire three laps from the end due to an engine failure. He found himself in third place in the World Championship, but the Belgian Grand Prix raised his hopes once again.
The race, dominated by Räikkönen until 4 laps from the end, was tainted by a late rain, causing the Finn to hit the barriers. Lewis Hamilton won, but was stripped of his victory after a post-race investigation awarded him a 25-second time penalty. Massa, initially P2, was then able to see his disadvantage in the Championship diminished. In Singapore, he managed to start on pole again. On lap 15, however, Nelson Piquet Jr hit a wall forcing the Safety Car to intervene, igniting the infamous SpyGate. A mistake in the pits during that Safety Car period caused Massa to finish the race in P13, chasing with 77 points against Hamilton's 84 with three races to go.
Massa trailed Hamilton by 7 points at his home Brazilian GP: if the Brit had not gone beyond fifth place, a home win would have sealed Felipe's title. After dominating the race, this looked like a done deed. Hamilton, however, overtook Glock for P5 with four corners to go, grabbing the title with a 1-point advantage.
Interlagos 2008 is still an open wound in many a Tifosi's heart, but was yet another proof of Felipe Massa's undisputed sportsmanship and talent, securing Maranello's affection in the process.
Written by Aurora Dell'Agli