Felipe Massa will grow to be the second high-profile ex-Components 1 driver to race for Venturi in Components E. Whereas the staff’s first such partnership failed spectacularly, the early indicators counsel Massa must be able to thrive.
Venturi has been right here earlier than – an ex-Components 1 star making the change to new electrical pastures in Components E. However the place Jacques Villeneuve failed – after simply three occasions and two race begins within the 2015/16 championship – the Monaco producer is hoping that new recruit Felipe Massa can succeed.
Actually, after an intense growth course of in current months, which included launching the Subsequent Gen driver academy and hiring ex-DTM racer and Williams F1 take a look at driver Susie Wolff as staff principal, the squad is aiming for a spot in FE’s higher echelons.
That ambition is a part of the rationale why Massa has been signed to a three-year deal. However the 11-time grand prix winner has his personal purpose to enter FE: he’s not finished with racing.
“I don’t need to be sitting on my couch at house,” he says. “I can not try this so I have to do one thing.”
There was a way that Massa didn’t actually need to hand over his spot on the F1 grid on the finish of 2017 – as evidenced by his willingness to race on with Williams for that season after beforehand having to make approach for the incoming Lance Stroll on the finish of ’16.
In Massa’s 15 years of racing in F1 there have been seven champions. FE, from its first 4 campaigns, has topped 4 totally different title winners. The place Mercedes, Ferrari and Purple Bull are the one squads to have triumphed in grands prix races since 2014, eight FE groups have taken wins in the identical interval.
After all, there are many causes from a long time of historical past which have led F1 to its present drawback with a skinny success-share, and FE is a start-up spec-chassis championship, however the latter’s wholesome aggressive unfold is the important thing purpose Massa highlights to elucidate why he desires to affix within the enjoyable.
“Components E is a championship that’s unpredictable,” he says. “You might have so many drivers successful, all the things is just a little bit extra aggressive. Components 1, roughly, you perceive who’s going to combat for the championship – virtually each time – since I arrived in F1 to now.”
Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008
Photograph by: Sutton Photos
Whereas Massa will try so as to add one other profitable chapter to a glittering motorsport profession, the 37-year-old is essential to FE, too. He possesses a excessive profile and his presence will imply not less than three Brazilian drivers will probably be on the 2018/19 grid – the nation is a major automotive marketplace for producers and has an extended historical past of motorsport success.
The primary FE staff Massa was hotly linked with was Jaguar, and on the finish of 2016 he got here near sealing the identical association he now has with Venturi – to attend for the ’16/17 season, which was nearly to get underway when he ended what he had thought was going to be his last F1 marketing campaign, to run its course after which come on board. However the profession strikes of Nico Rosberg – now an FE investor – and Valtteri Bottas modified all of that.
“Earlier than I re-signed in F1 I used to be shut [with Jaguar],” confirms Massa. “I didn’t actually signal something, however I did a take a look at to see the [Gen1] automotive and all the things. Possibly after the take a look at we [would] talk about as a result of it was not going to be immediately, it was going to be I’d end the season in F1, Components E was already beginning to enter 2017, [so] I stated, ‘No, if I am going, I am going after one yr as a result of I would like a little bit of time to arrange myself, to have just a little little bit of time at house as effectively after which we determine’.
“Then I did the [Jaguar] take a look at, however after I did the take a look at I had already signed with Williams [for 2017] so it [was] very brief to hold on for yet one more season in the long run. However this time I ended and took the identical thought: wait one yr, put together myself and see many issues in regards to the championship. However it labored roughly in the same approach.”
So, with Jaguar settled with Nelson Piquet Jr alongside Mitch Evans, Massa agreed to affix Venturi – a staff handily based mostly close to to his Monaco house – and the deal was introduced again in Could. Venturi president Gildo Pastor is pleased to have him.
“He is stuffed with life and he wished to go on with us and do that unimaginable problem,” Pastor says. “We’ve got been coaching him for a while now and he’s improbable. He desires to get higher on this area a lot – he desires to indicate all people there’s a king.”
Felipe Massa, Venturi Components E
Photograph by: Venturi Components E Crew
Massa could also be helpful to FE by means of his star billing and F1 achievements, however Wolff explains that his arrival has additionally boosted Venturi in terms of its enterprise dealings forward of season 5.
“For us as a staff, commercially, he’s been an enormous asset,” she says. “That’s been one among my areas that I’ve been centered on forward of season 5 and I’ve solely had constructive suggestions from the truth that he’s one among our drivers and undoubtedly probably the most high-profile driver on the grid. For the staff it’s an enormous win.”
However easing offers off previous glories is one factor, succeeding in FE – a notoriously difficult class to grasp – is one other, as demonstrated by Villeneuve’s doomed exploits. Massa will probably be going up towards many drivers who’ve raced in and dominated the sequence because it started – Sebastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi, Sam Fowl – and different rivals who’ve used their new FE house to spice up their very own racing credentials; assume Jean-Eric Vergne and Oliver Turvey. Plus, his just lately confirmed 2018/19 team-mate Edoardo Mortara has proven fast tempo at instances too.
FE enters a brand new period in season 5 with its Gen2 automotive, which can degree the competitors considerably and options new toys that would ease Massa’s arrival. The brand new automotive has a brake-by-wire system for its rear wheels and it has been steered that it will enhance driver feeling underneath braking, in addition to maximising regen for the powertrain.
“There are additionally techniques in F1 that get better a variety of power from the braking and it’s the identical strategy for season 5,” explains Venturi technical director Franck Baldet, who has been overseeing Massa’s growth progress, which started with testing its season-four automotive on the staff’s simulator to be taught important brake steadiness and power administration methods earlier than switching to the simulated VFE 05 Gen2 automotive after which testing the true machine on-track.
“His expertise from F1 on the brake-by-wire system helps loads as a result of he can deliver us the F1 expertise, the place now we have a similarity,” provides Baldet.
Felipe Massa, Venturi Components E
Photograph by: Venturi Components E Crew
Gen2 will wipe the FE slate clear to a sure extent and Massa’s relationship with Mortara seems to be excellent on the floor – Wolff highlights it as a key purpose why the Swiss-Italian racer was re-signed for a second yr at Venturi. However in terms of success on road circuits, Massa might want to frequently produce performances alongside the strains of his pole lap on the Monaco Grand Prix in 2008, and never his double crash on the identical venue in ’13.
Massa attended the Zurich and New York races on the finish of season 4 to see first-hand how an FE occasion works in full and to realize an understanding of Venturi’s race operations. When discussing his determination to affix Venturi, which pushed “tougher than all the others” to signal him, it’s clear he views the staff as one that’s going locations, even whether it is nonetheless but to attain a primary FE victory.
“[With] a brand new season, a brand new automotive – it’s an enormous change for everyone so it’s unimaginable to say who’s going to win the championship subsequent yr, who’s going to be extra aggressive or not,” Massa says. “However for those who see all the things that the staff is making ready – it’s fairly fascinating and I actually hope we are able to have a aggressive automotive.
“It’s true that Venturi have by no means gained a race, however they had been very near successful and so they’ve managed some excellent outcomes by way of factors.”
Massa has already impressed Venturi as “a really open-minded colleague” in response to Baldet, who provides: “He actually is pushing loads to all the time be with us.” There’s a actual sense that Massa has not simply joined the staff or FE to easily accumulate pay-cheques.
“My aim is all the time to be the perfect I can,” he says. “My aim is to attempt to win races – that is all the time what I had in all my profession. I need to attempt to win and be the perfect – my aim by no means modifications.”
Massa’s presence on the FE grid and the outcomes of his debut marketing campaign will undoubtedly be one of many tales of the upcoming season. But when he can deliver success to Venturi, he can even rewrite the staff’s personal FE story.