Formula E opener a race to forget for Felipe Massa

Racing for Venturi-Mercedes-Benz EQ, the former Ferrari F1 driver qualified in 17th but could only improve to 12th in the race in Riyadh.

Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa qualified in 17th at the Riyadh Street Circuit on Friday.   -  Getty Images

It was a great start to the 2019-20 Formula E season for Virgin-Audi’s Sam Bird, who won the opening race at the Riyadh Street Circuit. But Friday was a day to forget for 2008 Formula One runner-up Felipe Massa, who finished outside the points.

Into his second season with Venturi-Mercedes-Benz EQ, Massa qualified in 17th but could only improve to 12th in the race.

“I think I couldn’t have done much during the race to be honest. The problem was during qualifying. Tomorrow I hope I can do a precise job early on and do better on the whole. Better qualification, better race and a better position. I made a mistake in the first sector during the qualification groups. The car was good enough to make the Super Pole but I messed it up,” Massa, who finished 15th overall last season with 36 points and a single podium, said after the first race.

The second race in Riyadh will be held on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the two new entrants this season, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz EQ, claimed podium spots in their debut race through Andre Lotterer (second) and Stoffel Vandoorne (third), respectively.

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The addition of the new teams makes the Formula E championship much more competitive, said Massa.

“More top teams want to join the championship. It shows that the competition level in Formula E is increasing. It’s getting more difficult and challenging. So I’m very happy to be part of this championship,” said the former Ferrari F1 driver.

The 38-year-old Brazilian explained his transition from F1 Grands Prix to ePrix.

“Everything is different – the car, the tracks, tyres, engine, battery and the down force. The mentality must be different. But this (Formula E) is a big show as well. Transition from Formula 1 to here is not easy at all. You need a bit of time. The experience in Formula E is very important. I’m getting there slowly and each race is helping me a lot,” he said.

Being an avid F1 fan for most of his life, Massa spoke about favourite drivers. “My work is here (Formula E), but of course I support certain drivers there (F1) as well. My current favourite is Lewis Hamilton. By sheer numbers, he is the best motorsport driver in the world right now. But, in general, it’s always Michael Schumacher.”

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Massa’s former team Ferrari, with whom he claimed all of his 11 F1 race wins, is currently not in the best shape, with allegations of a rift between its lead drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. Moreover, the questionable strategies and moves of the 16-time constructors’ champion this season have been a major talking point in motorsport in 2019.

“Maybe they aren’t doing the perfect job. Because they haven’t won the constructors’ championship for a while. They have a great car sometimes, but other times there are problems. Ferrari definitely deserves success again. So let’s wait and see next season,” said Massa.

(The writer is in Riyadh on an invitation from Porsche.)

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