At only 37-years-old, Formula One champion Felipe Massa has won 11 Grand Prix, climbed the podium 41 times, and realised his dream of winning the Brazilian Grand Prix — twice. His father started him go-karting at 8-years-old and he immediately fell in love. He went on to drive for Ferrari, joining teammate Michael Schumacher. At the height of his career in 2009, Felipe suffered a terrible head injury during qualifying in Hungary, but overcame the disaster to return for the 2010 season. His last racing season was 2017 and despite his young retirement, he is in the top five for the longest running F1 careers. He has remained very active in charity organisations in Brazil and is an ambassador for Peace and Sport. Felipe shares with HelloMonaco his words of wisdom on love, harmony, and what he prays for every day.
HM: What makes you happy?
FM: I think there are so many things that make you happy. First of all, what you do you have to do something that you enjoy — working in something that makes you happy. Because if you are not working on something that you enjoy, you will never be happy. It’s not the money, it’s what you are doing day by day. I always dreamed to be a driver. So when you’re doing something that you really love to do, time goes by really quickly. Apart from that, a good family makes you feel good and having people around that you enjoy. And I have a great family, I have a great wife, and an amazing son, and I live in an amazing place, here in Monaco. I try to be as simple as I can and try to have a normal life. And I think I do. That makes me happy.
HM: What makes you unhappy?
FM: I think when things aren’t really fair and people want to [have power] over you. I like to spend time with people that are really similar to me, because there is respect. I think if you don’t feel respect, you’re not happy. So I try to respect people and I want to have the same respect. I can say that I have a lot of respect here, in my life, and that is something that is really important.
HM: It must be difficult to be respectful in Formula One, especially during the race.
FM: No, I think you can be respectful everywhere you go. If you respect the drivers, you have the same. And between the drivers, when you are in the race, you are in the race. Everybody wants to overtake you, or you are trying to overtake the others as well. Respect is a different thing. When you overtake somebody, you do it in the correct way, not in the wrong way. But there is the sport, and there is the race. So when you close the visor, you are not 100 % friends with everyone because you want to win. But when you open the visor, you are you.
HM: Are you a successful person? What are your parameters for being successful?
HM: What role does money play in your life?
FM: I think it’s always great to have the possibility to do the things you want to do. When you have a good life, you live in a good house and have a good family, and to see what I can give to my son. He’s very lucky to be able to have opportunities in life. Especially me, I am Brazilian, so I see so many difficult things in my country; people are really struggling with money. But money is not everything. I think it makes you happy because you have opportunity to do and get what you never believed you could. But you need to be simple and you need to be humble. That’s really the most important thing that I learned from my family and I try to pass that onto my son.
HM: Do you believe in God? Have you ever asked for help?
FM: Definitely. I am Catholic, but I don’t go all the time to church because I believe in God. So maybe I believe in God more than I believe in the priest. I pray every day, when I go to sleep. I never really ask «God, help me to win this race», but I ask for protection. I ask for me, for my family, for my friends and the people around me as well. And I really appreciate what I have. I say thank you to God for everything that I have and especially for my health. I think the most important thing is the health of my family and the people around me.
HM: Do you think luck plays an important role in the race?
FM: Yes. First of all you need to have the talent. You have to be good; otherwise you cannot do anything. If you don’t have the talent, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t [race]. Because before Formula One you race in so many categories and to arrive in Formula One you need to win. So definitely you need to be good. But apart from being good, you need to clever, and you need to have luck because things happen. Because of a little thing you can miss a victory. It depends so much on the mechanical side, and you have a team of like 600 people working for you. If a little mistake is coming from the engine, or the car or from the mechanics, then maybe your race is finished. Or maybe your possibility is finished. So also a little luck always helps the drivers.
HM: Have you had moments where you thought «that was luck»?
FM: Yes, I’ve won races where I was in a good position, or maybe the car in front had a problem. But I also lost races when I was first and I had a problem in the car. And even the championship because of that. I’ve had both sides of luck, but also wins without luck. And I also had an accident where a car lost a piece and it came into my head. And many people said «you are so unlucky» and I said, «yes, I was unlucky, but I was also lucky because I am still here.» There are so many ways of thinking, but I definitely had both sides during my long career.
HM: Which was your most memorable win?
FM: I think the most incredible race I won was in Brazil for the first time — because I’m Brazilian. I always dreamed to be a Formula One driver and always dreamed to race at Interlagos, which is in São Paolo. I remember going to the grand stands to support the Brazilian drivers, and I always dreamed that one day I would be there. I managed to get to Formula One; I managed to race eight years for Ferrari; and I won for the first time in 2006 at Interlagos. It was what I always dreamed of and I won two times.
HM: In your accident you lost consciousness when a car piece flew into your helmet. Did you have a long rehabilitation period?
FM: I actually lost half the season. I was six months in recovery at home. I broke all the bones in my [forehead] and now I have a metal plate. It was a big accident, so I am really lucky to be here. Because a millimetre to the left I could be blind; or a millimetre on the other side I could have died. Definitely I was really lucky, but it was not my day. But everything went ok.
HM: You announced your retirement in 2017. What’s next for Felipe Massa?
FM: It’s a good question because in sport, you stop very early. And I am 37, so I stopped my career in Formula One. It looks like I stopped really early, but I spent 16 years in Formula One. It’s a lot. I am in the top 5 of drivers who raced the most in Formula One history. But now that I’ve stopped, that doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. So now is the time that I have to understand what I’m going to do. Am I still going to race? Yes, I still want to race. Maybe Formula E. But also to do other things in my field where I can be happy. It will take a little bit of time to figure out what I will do. But racing is what I really enjoy most in my life.
HM: You are an ambassador for Peace and Sport. What does it mean for you?
HM: You have many charity organisations in Brazil.
FM: Yes, I have done many charity organisations in Brazil that I sometimes help myself. It doesn’t matter what you do, it is important to do something that helps. And I think that Peace and Sport is trying to help countries that really need lots of help.
HM: What about love? There are different kinds of love; the love for you partner is different than the love for your child, or your country. What is most important for you?
FM: I think love is very important. I am married and I have an amazing wife and I think that love makes you happy. Also the love you have for your kid is difficult to find the size, it’s so big. But just because you love your kid you give everything to him? No, I think you need to show and educate him in the right direction. That is quite important as well. But also the love for your friends, your country, your people, and your life, it is a different way but also important as well. If you have all these things together, you can be sure you are happy.
HM: Do you agree with the statement that if you don’t love yourself, you cannot love anyone else?
HM: Is there anyone who inspired you?
FM: Yes, my dad, definitely. I became a driver because of him. I was always following him in everything so he was very important for me. But I’ve met so many good people, so I would say in sports, Michael Schumacher was important for me. Jean Todt is another person who helped me a lot in my mentality and my career. But so many people were important to me to change my mind and help me to grow.
HM: Do you need to be in harmony with your life?
FM: Yes, for sure you need to be in harmony. I think harmony is when you are yourself. When you’re doing something where you are not yourself, I think you are not in harmony. You need to feel your feet on the ground, so that when you are in a nice place or not a nice place, you feel relaxed. So you feel, you are yourself you are in harmony and you enjoy yourself. I think that is really harmony.
HM: If you had the chance to start your life over, would you do it?
FM: I am happy with my life. If I need to start a new life, I would try to do exactly what I did. I’m really proud with what I did and I’m really happy with my life.
See the full version of the interview go here.