Tuesday 31 March 2020 6:11 pm

Felipe Massa interview: Formula E star on life in Brazil under coronavirus lockdown and a disruptive season with Venturi Racing

The health crisis currently gripping the globe has forced people from far and wide to put their life on pause — and for Felipe Massa it has been no different. 

Used to racing at speeds of more than 200kmph and jet-setting around the world to compete in Formula E, Massa’s life, too, has come to a shuddering halt as he is now also on lockdown.

Like many stars of motorsport past and present, the 38-year-old’s primary residence is in Monaco, but as the coronavirus pandemic swept across Europe, Massa opted to return to his native South America to ride out the crisis with his family.

“I decided to come to Brazil a few weeks ago when all of this started to grow a lot, especially in Italy and France,” the Venturi Racing driver tells City A.M. from his country house. 

“Here there’s less cases but also I have my whole family and we have a little bit more space.”

The former Ferrari driver has a host of family members staying with him during the Covid-19 pandemic — and they are even joining him in his daily training regime.

Felipe Massa
Massa and his son returned home to Brazil, along with his wife, to join his wider family amid the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)

“I have my trainer that comes online and on the telephone and it’s also good because my wife, my mum, my sister, my brother, they are training as well — and the girlfriend of my brother,” he says. 

“We train together. We have breakfast together, lunch together, dinner together. We also stay outside of the house if we want because here it’s no problem.

“It is a little better than staying closed in the apartment [in Monaco] in the cold weather,” he jokes. 

Coronavirus crisis

But while being able to spend time with family – his son, niece and father are also staying with him – is one of few silver linings amid a troubling situation, there is genuine concern in Massa’s voice as he discusses the global outlook.

“I try to motivate myself with training but also staying with family, thinking positive, but for sure when you watch the news, which I’m also doing a lot every day, it’s a bit scary, what’s happening all around the world,” Massa says. 

“You really don’t know when this is going to finish, but I am trying to think positive, I really hope that soon we can get back to our normal life and also to the races, which is what we love to do.”

Massa races for Venturi Racing in the FIA ABB Formula E Championship but has not yet had the success hoped for (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

Massa has bought additional gym equipment, including weights and a bike, to keep himself fit. He hopes this unprecedented period can prove a pivotal moment as he looks to kickstart his Formula E career, which in a season and a half has yet to reach the lofty heights of his time in Formula One.

Time to refocus

Some of that is down to the series’ inherent competitiveness from the front to the back of the grid – the five races so far this season have yielded five different winners – but he readily admits some of the shortcomings have been his own. 

“For sure I would have expected more success than what I have had until now,” he says.

“I’m not really worried about my speed, I think I can be quick and understand the car and be at a good level. My worry is that I made some mistakes and many things didn’t work in the right way. 

“I didn’t start the season like I wanted so we lost some points for my mistakes. We lost some points for operational problems, decisions that didn’t happen in the right way.”

ABB FIA Formula E Championship - Santiago de Chile E-Prix
Massa hopes to be back in the cockpit soon and picking up points (Getty Images)

However, he believes his team, Venturi — led by Susie Wolff, the former racer and wife of Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff — is more competitive now than it was during his debut campaign. Now he just needs the opportunity to get back behind the wheel to prove it. 

When that will happen remains uncertain, though. The season has been suspended indefinitely, although City A.M. understands Formula E have every intention of completing the season, and are considering extending the calendar and assessing alternative race locations. 

“This year we have already had many races cancelled. Hong Kong for different reasons at the beginning,” Massa says, citing the civil unrest in the region at the end of last year. “But then Sanya [China] for the same reason that all the other races have been cancelled. 

“I would like to see this all finish soon and we follow the calendar, but maybe that’s not what’s going to happen. Maybe they need to change everything in the calendar. Now it’s impossible to say.”

While many things are uncertain, Massa offered some assurances over his own future. 

The Brazilian confirmed his intention to stay in Formula E, although amid a global emergency, his priorities are understandably a little simpler. 

Massa says: “For the moment I don’t consider to do anything else, I just consider to race. I just consider to go back to normal life.”