The same old Felipe Massa?
Felipe Massa won a lot of respect in Brazil a year ago when, having missed out on the Formula One championship by a single point after winning his home grand prix, he proved gracious in defeat.
“I know how to win, I know how to lose,” he said.
The Ferrari driver returns to Interlagos as a spectator and special guest this weekend after suffering life-threatening head injuries in Hungary in July.
He will not race again until next season, but is on the mend.
Some, however, are asking whether Massa is the man that he was. Not physically, since he has been given a clean bill of health, but in that he appears to have become far more outspoken in his absence.
He suggested early on that Jenson Button was buckling under the pressure of leading the championship — a fair enough point of view — and that he had been ‘robbed’ of the title himself last year by the Renault race-fixing scandal.
He told reporters after his first day back in a Formula One car in Italy this week that he was “the same bastard as before”, a somewhat jarring expression from someone typically more courteous than cussing.
Massa then capped it all on his return to Brazil when he told local reporters that he was sure his future Ferrari team mate Fernando Alonso, despite the Spaniard being cleared of all blame by the governing FIA and denying any involvement, must have known all about what Renault were up to in Singapore last year.
That may have been an off-the-cuff comment not intended for publication but it caused a storm in the F1 world, with Ferrari swiftly putting out a clarification on their website.
Massa’s compatriot Rubens Barrichello, who is challenging Brawn team mate Button for the title in the last two races, had a simple explanation when I asked him whether he felt his friend had changed.
“I don’t think he has. I think he’s been the same person and all my wishes, when I was at the hospital, were that he was the same guy,” he replied.
“After I saw him with my own eyes and I saw that he was the same, I wished that he could drive the same way, and he went to Fiorano and did that.
“From all the people that I’ve spoken to and to himself, it looked like he got into the car and on the third lap he was on the pace.
“But there is one fact that in Formula One if you’re not travelling with everyone all the time and not hearing what the same people are talking about, you just get different ideas and maybe you’re flying on your own ideas,” added the Brazilian.
“He’s been out…and then he comes back in and talks about something and it becomes a lot more important.
“For me, it’s just the fact that he’s been out and not living the world that we’re living in.”
Massa will be waving the chequered flag at Interlagos this weekend but maybe we will not see the Felipe Massa of old until he is back in the car again for real.
Even then, we may not. On current form, with Alonso in the other Ferrari, there could be a few sparks next season.
PHOTO: Ferrari Formula One driver Felipe Massa of Brazil smiles after driving a F2007 car during a test at the team’s Fiorano track October 12, 2009. Massa took his first test drive on Monday after he fractured his skull at July’s Hungarian Grand Prix. REUTERS/Ercole Colombo