FIRE IN THE BLOOD

Mercedes tech boss Paddy Lowe and Peter Wind­sor go way back – back to when they both worked to­gether at Wil­liams. Here Peter re­flects on a life de­voted to the fas­ci­na­tion of cre­ative en­gi­neer­ing A change of scene and a new chal­lenge has rekin­dled Felipe

F1 Racing - - THE FEATURES - WORDS JAMES ROBERTS

Some­times in high sum­mer, there is a re­lent­less heat in cen­tral Italy that is in­suf­fer­able. Day af­ter day, blis­ter­ing tem­per­a­tures and bright sun scorch terra rma. Res­i­dents of Maranello and Mo­dena are used to it, but still they yearn for respite from the op­pres­sive fur­nace.

Con­trast that with a fresh, blos­som-strewn spring day in ru­ral Oxfordshire. In­vig­o­rat­ing and full of prom­ise. Into this ne morn­ing walks Felipe Massa, once of in­tense, blood-red Fer­rari but now dressed in the cool, airy blue of Wil­liams. He crosses the Grove fac­tory car park with a condent swag­ger, team-mate Valt­teri Bot­tas in tow, ready to be pho­tographed as F1 Rac­ing cover stars.

The change in air – and colours – has given Felipe a new pur­pose. His duty now, as he sees it, is to lead his team in the way he saw Michael Schu­macher suc­cess­fully gal­vanise ev­ery­one at Fer­rari. He has new al­lies and old friends help­ing him to achieve this, and de­spite some bad luck in the open­ing races of the year, there is a sense of great op­ti­mism for the months ahead.

There is a pas­sion for rac­ing that you sense had dwin­dled for him some­what at Fer­rari. There was a need for a change. And while Grove is a world away from Maranello, it has at its oh-so-Bri­tish core an en­gi­neer­ing-driven team with a rac­ing heart. Here, Felipe can be him­self. Here, he can rekin­dle his pas­sion for rac­ing – and win­ning.

Felipe has been given the chance to thrive again. And af­ter be­ing re­minded, in no un­cer­tain terms, who was faster than him at Fer­rari, he now has the op­por­tu­nity to ght for his own cause and to build a team in his mould. The ame in­side burns brightly once again.

“I hope it does,” says Wil­liams chief tech­ni­cal ofcer Pat Sy­monds. “You can get stuck in your com­fort zone. Felipe was at Fer­rari for a long time in driver terms – there are some par­al­lels with the time I spent at Re­nault – so it’s good to get out and do some­thing dif­fer­ent and re-in­vig­o­rate yourself. I think he does see it as a sec­ond com­ing. A chance to press the re­set but­ton and go again.” Sy­monds has also been im­pressed with what he’s seen of Massa so far. “I know Fer­nando Alonso as well as al­most any­one and if Felipe can race as well as Fer­nando – which he did plenty of times – then I think he’s got some abil­ity. That, cou­pled with the way he was treated at Fer­rari and the sort of hunger that’s go­ing to bring on, I thought we were get­ting a pretty good guy. I didn’t re­alise how good un­til I started work­ing with him.

“Not only is he quicker than I ex­pected, but he’s such a per­son­able guy and a team player. And his feed­back is good; it’s suc­cinct. There are no airs and graces. This is what he thinks and is feel­ing – get on and x it. That’s how I like to work.” Massa stands in a newly built part of the Wil­liams com­plex in Grove, which will house Wil­liams Ad­vanced En­gi­neer­ing, the com­pany’s lu­cra­tive cus­tomer so­lu­tions arm. As he talks about his new home, the 33-year-old dis­plays a bub­bly, boy­ish enthusiasm, his de­liv­ery en­er­getic. It’s rem­i­nis­cent of those early days at Sauber. Cast your mind back and re­call ashes of in­cred­i­ble speed, off­set by wheels in the dirt, or car­bon bre ying through the air. Raw pace that needed to be con­trolled.

But af­ter eight years rac­ing for the most fa­mous team in For­mula 1, Massa’s at­tributes have been bol­stered by ex­pe­ri­ence and ma­tu­rity. This is a man who showed in­cred­i­ble hu­mil­ity fol­low­ing that last-sec­ond world ti­tle de­feat in 2008; a man who still bears the scars of an ac­ci­dent that nearly cost him his life in 2009. Lesser men would have stopped, but within Felipe is a burn­ing de­sire to keep on rac­ing. This is a dif­fer­ent Felipe. A more re­laxed Felipe. A Felipe who has es­caped the stiing in­ten­sity of Fer­rari and has found a calm new en­vi­ron­ment at Wil­liams. And who bet­ter to con­cur with that, than his old mucker Rob Smed­ley, him­self a re­cent Maranello émi­gré.

“It’s no se­cret that I know Felipe Massa very, very well,” says Smed­ley in his im­me­di­ately fa­mil­iar Teesside tones. “I know him in­side out and I can tell you he is a very good driver. He’s been given the free­dom here – free­dom of headspace you could call it – to do just that. Drive. And he’s de­liv­er­ing.” A podium could have been on the cards in Aus­tralia if it hadn’t been for that pesky Kobayashi. A podium could also have been a pos­si­bil­ity in Bahrain, had the Safety Car not put paid to Wil­liams’ strat­egy. And in China, things were out of his con­trol dur­ing a pit­stop tyre mixup (also not helped by a wheel bang­ing cour­tesy of his old spar­ring part­ner, Fer­nando Alonso). And Malaysia? Fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory. An­other ‘yourteam-mate-is-faster-than-you’ ra­dio call, but this time the re­sponse was dif­fer­ent. For too long he has been the obe­di­ent num­ber two. This was Felipe stamp­ing his author­ity on his new team. We’re speak­ing the day af­ter Felipe’s long­haul ight back home from Shang­hai, ahead of the start of the Euro­pean sea­son. To­day and to­mor­row present a chance to de­brief the early

“Felipe and Valt­teri are quite equal. That’s a good thing, be­cause it keeps both of them hon­est. If you have two driv­ers who are miles apart, they don’t push. When they are snap­ping at each other, it’s great” Pat Sy­monds, Wil­liams chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer

races, to look at de­vel­op­ments for Spain and to hone the sim­u­la­tor. Oh, and to have a quick chat about rac­ing with Sir Frank. Then it’s back home to Brazil to re­lax and cel­e­brate his 33rd birth­day with fam­ily and friends. His new home is dif­fer­ent – but surely not such a bad place to be?

“The men­tal­ity of the people here at Wil­liams is quite dif­fer­ent to the Ital­ian way. The style in which they talk and the fact they are a lot more or­gan­ised. But I have worked with many English people be­fore – like Rob [Smed­ley]. I’m en­joy­ing my de­ci­sion to move here,” he says, smil­ing.

“The people here are very in­tel­li­gent. They’re very good en­gi­neers, but there are a lot of new people so there is a lot of work still to do to x the or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he adds. He lists the new faces that now pass through the fac­tory gates each morn­ing: Pat Sy­monds (chief tech­ni­cal ofcer), Rob Smed­ley (head of ve­hi­cle per­for­mance), Jakob An­dreasen (head of en­gi­neer­ing op­er­a­tions), Craig Wil­son (head of ve­hi­cle dy­nam­ics) and Rod Nel­son (chief test and sup­port en­gi­neer). They ar­rive, re­spec­tively, from Marussia, Fer­rari, Force In­dia, Mercedes and Lo­tus. A melt­ing pot of ideas and prac­tices to fuse to­gether. “When you bring in new people, you need a bit of time,” says Felipe. “Noth­ing will be per­fect on the rst day, but it’s very good for the fu­ture.”

Be­hind the scenes at Wil­liams, work is un­der way to bring back fad­ing mem­o­ries of suc­cess to the fore­front of ev­ery­one’s minds once more. With the ery ex­pe­ri­ence of Felipe and the icy edge of Valt­teri, the com­bi­na­tion is driv­ing ev­ery­body for­ward. In per­son­al­i­ties they are po­lar op­po­sites, from dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents with dif­fer­ent cul­tures, but out on track they are mighty close. Too close, per­haps?

In Q2 in Malaysia Felipe and Valt­teri’s lap times were were iden­ti­cal, to the thou­sandth of a sec­ond. And that, ac­cord­ing to Felipe’s new race en­gi­neer Andrew Mur­doch, is just what the team needs. “It’s bet­ter for us when both guys are push­ing and are so close. The dif­fer­ence comes down to re­ally small ar­eas, such as the setup with the dif­fer­en­tial or other elec­tronic con­trols,” says Mur­doch. “And when you over­lay both driv­ers’ teleme­try, you no­tice that Felipe is per­haps a lit­tle smoother – but that’s down to ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Their closely matched per­for­mances have also im­pressed Pat Sy­monds, a man who has guided

both Michael Schu­macher and Fer­nando Alonso to world ti­tle suc­cess.

“Know­ing Fer­nando’s abil­ity I had a high re­gard for what Felipe was ca­pa­ble of but, equally, in the short time I’ve worked with Valt­teri, I’ve been con­tin­u­ally im­pressed with him. I re­ally didn’t know how it was go­ing to bal­ance out, but the re­al­ity is they are quite equal, aren’t they? That’s a good thing, be­cause it keeps both of them hon­est and I like that. If you have two driv­ers who are miles apart, they don’t push. One gets com­fort­able, the other gives up. When they are snap­ping at each other, it’s great.

“Work­ing with Felipe, he gives feed­back the way I like to hear feed­back. I don’t want opin­ions and I don’t want ‘maybes’ I want: ‘I know this is hap­pen­ing. Or I don’t know.’ And that’s what he’s very good at. I think Valt­teri is quite a deep thinker, but he suf­fered last year be­cause in his rookie sea­son he didn’t have the best role model. But Felipe brings a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence – he’s very solid – so things are denitely im­prov­ing.” Andrew Mur­doch also en­gi­neered Pas­tor Mal­don­ado last year and is quick to com­pare the two South Amer­i­can racers, cit­ing their sim­i­lar­ity in char­ac­ter. But be­hind the wheel, Felipe dis­plays greater rene­ment and smooth­ness, putting less en­ergy into his steer­ing and ped­als.

“Per­son­al­ity-wise, Felipe is very open and very friendly. He’s a typ­i­cally Latin type of guy,” says Mur­doch. “When I take him around the fac­tory he’s al­ways shak­ing ev­ery­body’s hands and hug­ging them. He’s very open, gre­gar­i­ous and warm.”

Warm. Not a trait of­ten used to de­scribe the racers who come from the Scan­di­na­vian na­tions. So how does Felipe agree feel about his team­mate, the ice-cool Finn, Valt­teri Bot­tas?

“We work well to­gether, but we are com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” ac­knowl­edges Felipe as he stands be­side Valt­teri un­der the ash­lights. “The way I am, the way he is, we’re re­ally dif­fer­ent. It’s the men­tal­ity, from coun­try to coun­try. For sure, I talk a lot more than him – and I’m not a guy who talks a lot, but I do talk a lot more than him.

“I am a lit­tle bit eas­ier meet­ing people, get­ting along with them be­cause I am like that. I have no prob­lem to meet a guy to­day and within ten min­utes have a good re­la­tion­ship with them. I’m like that and I’m sure it’s a lit­tle bit eas­ier for me to change the team com­pared to him…” Rewind a cou­ple of weeks and in the warm, oodlit Bahrain pad­dock, just a few hours af­ter the che­quered ag has fallen, driv­ers are giv­ing their post-race de­briefs to small hud­dles of jour­nal­ists. In the pad­dock, fork­lift trucks nois­ily re­move the rem­nants of garages as the F1 cir­cus packs up for an­other weekend.

Felipe comes over to speak to us, scoops up his four-year-old son (also called Felipe) and plonks him on his lap. As he bounces him up and down it feels more like a Sun­day din­ner in the Massa house­hold, not the nal few hours of an F1 weekend. Many driv­ers hide their fam­i­lies and pri­vate life away from the spot­light. But that’s not the Brazil­ian way and it’s signicant that Wil­liams al­low Felipe the free­dom to en­joy him­self – some­thing he says he lost at Fer­rari.

“If you are not 100 per cent happy with a job, you are not able to give ev­ery­thing. Now I feel I can. A step back can ac­tu­ally be two steps for­ward” Felipe Massa

“Well, I think I am able to be my­self now and this is very im­por­tant. The men­tal­ity, the mo­ti­va­tion… you need to be re­laxed, you need to be yourself. You can­not try to be some­thing you are not. You can­not solve the pres­sures that are not your prob­lem, you know? It’s true, I feel I am re­ally light [he points to his shoul­ders]. There has been a big weight taken away from my back. It gives me a lot more hap­pi­ness. “Some­times you need to re­mem­ber you have the most in­cred­i­ble job that ev­ery­body in the world would like to have. But if you are not 100 per cent happy with your job, as a re­sult you are not able to give ev­ery­thing you are able to. Now I feel as though I can. A step back can ac­tu­ally be two steps for­ward.”

It’s hon­est stuff from Felipe. Fer­rari was his home for eight sea­sons, but clearly there was pres­sure and pol­i­tics that af­fected his driv­ing. Imag­ine the pain of be­ing told to con­cede the lead of a grand prix on the an­niver­sary – to the day – of the date you al­most lost your life on track. Risk­ing your life on be­half of the team and this was the way they thanked you for it. Rob Smed­ley, a key gure that day, can see the change for the bet­ter in 2014.

“What I see now is a very re­laxed Felipe,” he says. “He’s in­cred­i­bly ex­pe­ri­enced and there is a ma­tu­rity about him. He un­der­stands that the job he has to do here is not just driv­ing the car. It’s about driv­ing the people as well. He knows how to do that. He’s a ma­ture and sen­si­ble guy, but he’s able to mo­ti­vate people in the right di­rec­tion. He’s had some very good teach­ers in that area – I would cite Michael Schu­macher as be­ing one of them. Now it’s his time to do that, and he’s do­ing it very well.” Back again at Wil­liams, this talk of learn­ing from oth­ers gets Felipe very an­i­mated, demon­strat­ing the re that burns in his belly. As we be­gin to talk about de­vel­op­ing the FW36 and build­ing a team, he bangs his hand on the ta­ble, as if to em­pha­sis the need for ac­tion.

“Yeah, sure. With ex­pe­ri­ence you al­ways learn from all the people you’ve worked with, in­clud­ing Michael. He was very pro­fes­sional, but I didn’t just learn from him. It was from other people as well, other driv­ers, other en­gi­neers. When you go to a team you need to build the new in­fra­struc­ture, the new men­tal­ity as well, you need to try to use ev­ery­thing you have – so that’s what I’m try­ing to do. I’m try­ing to ap­ply the lit­tle things that I’ve learned in all these years and all my ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He knocks his st on the ta­ble again: “This team has po­ten­tial to be com­pet­i­tive and to ght with Fer­rari, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren. When I came here and I drove the car at the test, we were pretty com­pet­i­tive. We were not 100 per cent sure we had ev­ery­thing cor­rect to ght for the cham­pi­onship, but what counts is de­vel­op­ing from the rst race to the last race. It’s not easy to make it hap­pen, but we have the po­ten­tial to do it. We have to x all the dif­fer­ent ar­eas and we will do it. And this team will grow. And things will get back to how they were at Wil­liams be­fore.”

And with that he goes back to work. He heads back in­side the fac­tory, to ask ques­tions of his en­gi­neers, to em­brace the me­chan­ics who work all-nighters on his car, to push the work­force, to de­mand the up­grades that will drive the team for­ward. You sense the ur­gency, the de­sire and the pas­sion that ex­ist within him. Noth­ing would give him more plea­sure than to take Wil­liams to the top of the podium, and to let ev­ery­one else know that he is faster than them.

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