Massa hoping for home advantage
ONLY a few hundred yards from the splendour of the Hyatt and Hilton hotels, hundreds of Paulistas live in a favela – a slum of cardboard, wood and corrugated iron near the road to the Interlagos Circuit.
With barely enough money for food, they can only live their dream through another of their Sao Paulo number, Felipe Massa, who will send the city into party mode if he should manage to pull off what another Brazilian driver described as Mission Impossible.
That is how Rubens Barrichello sees Massa’s chances of stopping Lewis Hamilton from winning the world title on Sunday. He said so yesterday as Hamilton sat alongside Massa, posed for pictures of them shaking hands and exchanged a few pleasantries.
Hamilton showed no emotion when Barrichello, born 100 yards from the huge iron gates of the old track, summed up the task.
He was clearly thinking of last year, when a mistake by himself and then technical trouble combined to dismantle his title challenge and allow Kimi Raikkonen – who, like Massa here, was seven points behind – to steal the crown.
Hamilton kept it low key, while Massa, 27, was more animated, drumming his fingers on the desk, offering lots of little twitches absent from the McLaren man.
Brazil has not had a champion since Ayrton Senna in 1991 and they want Massa to create a new legend in his home city, in a Ferrari.
“The position is quite difficult, but I always have a great time in my country,” said Massa. “This circuit is part of my story. I grew up in this area. I started when I was eight over the other side, at the go-kart track, and I started my career in open-wheelers here in 1998. I love the circuit. It’s a very special circuit for me.
“I have great motivation, great encouragement from my fans and that’s fantastic. You go out to restaurant and everybody looks at you and congratulates you and gives a lot of good energy for the weekend. That’s a great feeling.
“It’s a great time to be here, first of all fighting for the championship in my home country and, secondly, in a good position in my career.”
Massa was never quite the pizza delivery boy legend has it, but he did meet the Ferrari cook when he took food to the paddock for his ex-manager in days when he had to scrounge a pass.
Massa was a long way from the favelas, which make it impossible to accurately say if this city has 13million or 20m inhabitants, but the family did have hard times after his father’s business ran into trouble.
In a country where most people aspire to a living wage, Massa is close enough to ground level to be a hero.
“I have a great feeling with the Brazilian people. It is a dream come true,” said Massa. “But we always want more, that’s our life.
“When you win one race, you want to win a second time. I have never won the championship, but I think it’s the same; when you win the first time, you push even harder to win the second time. That’s part of the mentality of sports people.”
It is exactly that and it is why Hamilton will surely win the title in a weekend when rain is forecast – bad news for Ferrari, whose car is far less driveable than the McLaren machine in damp conditions. But, for all his cool, the lesson of last year is branded into Hamilton’s brain
Hamilton said of that yesterday: “It’s quite a bit different to last year, simply because we came here after I had had one bad race, so it was all a bit hectic and the pressure of being at the last race was upon me. Perhaps it got to me.
“This year I feel it’s just another race.”
SHAKING THINGS UP: Hamilton, left, and Massa exchange pleasantries but it will be very different on Sunday