Debut & Sauber (2002)
Massa made his rookie debut back in 2002, filling the vacant seat at Sauber left by Kimi Raikkonen. His first season was characterised by mistake after mistake as many viewed the young Brazilian to be too hot headed, impatient and lacked the skill to warrant a seat in Formula 1. He did manage to score 4 points in his opening season, including his best finish, a 5th place at the 2002 Spanish GP. Massa also received a 1 race suspension late on in the season, causing the young Brazilian to miss the 2002 US GP. He was deputised for by Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Massa took 2003 out of F1 and spent the year with Ferrari in order to further develop his driving skills and experience. Thus when he returned to race for Sauber in 2004 he was more of a match for his highly experienced team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. Massa managed to score 12 points, which included a 5th place finish in Monaco and his best result, a 4th place finish in Belgium.
Massa remained with Sauber into 2005, this time partnering returning ex-world champion Jacques Villeneuve. Massa thoroughly out performed him and scored 11 points for the team. Massa was on for a strong finish in Monaco yet again, but it was Villeneuve, his team mate who took him out of the points position with a crazy overtake into turn 1. Massa best result of the season was a fine 4th place finish at the Canadian GP.
2006 proved to be all change for the Brazilian as it was announced he would partner Michael Schumacher at Ferrari for the season. His Ferrari debut did not get off to a good start, after gaining a front row grid slot along side his team mate, Massa finished the race in 9th and out of the points. His first ever podium finish came soon after though, at the European GP with a 3rd place.
Strong mid-season form saw the Brazilian finish 2nd to Schumacher at the US GP & the German GP. His sudden lung to the fore front of F1 was truly realised when Massa claimed his maiden pole position at the 2006 Turkish GP. He went onto win the race and claimed his maiden win. He would go onto to win this GP for 3 consecutive years. He also won the final race of the year at his home race in Brazil, something a Brazilian had not done since Ayrton Senna. He finished the season in 3rd place with 80 points overall.
2007 saw him partner Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, where he was initially out done by the Finn. However back to back wins in Bahrain & Spain saw him reassert himself in the team. Massa was disqualified from the Canadian GP after leaving the pits whilst they were closed. His only other win came again at the Turkish GP, but a series of poor results took him out of the title fight and left his team mate Raikkonen to take the crown at the final round.
The start of 2008 saw Massa DNF twice out of 2 races, it was particularly sour after he was leading the race in Malaysia and a simple spin robbed him of victory. However yet again the Brazilian bounced back with wins in Bahrain & Turkey. Further podiums early on in Spain & Monaco put Massa into a position whereby he was one of the main title challengers. Further wins came in France, Europe & Belgium.
His title chances took a serious hit at the inaugural Singapore GP. After taking Pole and leading for the majority of the race, a pit stop mistake left Massa dragging his fuel rig down the pit lane and it took him out of any contention for points let alone the win.
At the final race of the year Massa needed to win and hope that his title challenger Hamilton finished outside of the top 6 and in one of the closest ever title deciding races it looked on. Massa won the race and the title looked to be his, but it was on the last corner of the last lap that Hamilton managed to get himself up to 5th, meaning that Massa lost the title by a single point.
2009 will once again see Massa partner Raikkonen at Ferrari and was tipped to be Massa’s year in pre-season testing, however it proved to be anything but. The season started poorly with 2 non-finishes and no points from the first 4 races. His first points came at the Spanish GP with a 6th place finish. Things after this looked to be on the up for Massa, scoring points in every race up to the German GP where it culminated in a 3rd place podium finish.
However a horrific accident during qualifying for the Hungarian GP saw a spring that had detached itself from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn and struck Massa on the Helmet at race speeds. Massa drove straight into the barrier and was quickly air lifted to a nearby hospital. After emergency surgery he was placed in a coma to aid recovery. Family and Team members flocked to his bed, but the Brazilian was unable to return to racing in 2009.
Ferrari initially were hopeful that Michael Schumacher would come out of retirement to replace Massa, but it wasn’t to be. Ferrari tester Luca Badoer replaced him in Valencia & Belgium, but after that Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella moved to Ferrari to replace him for the remainder of 2009.
A speedy recovery saw Massa attend several of the final races of 2009 and he even waved the finishing flag at the Brazilian GP. It was confirmed that Massa would return to full time racing in 2010 partnering 2 time World Champion Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.