Last weekend Felipe Massa drove the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix, and by the looks of it, it will be his last. Over the years we have seen a lot of Brazilian drivers, which could surprise people, since it isn’t one of the richest countries in the world.
Usually, young talent succeeds the old (although can one really say 35 is old?) and natural replacement generally saw to it that we have seen 1 or more Brazilian driver in F1 for the last 50 years.
|Chico Landi||1951–1953, 1956|
|Nano da Silva Ramos||1955–1956|
|Wilson Fittipaldi Jr.||1972–1973, 1975|
|José Carlos Pace||1972–1977|
|Luiz Pereira Bueno||1973|
|Alex Dias Ribeiro||1976–1977, 1979|
|Roberto Pupo Moreno||1982, 1987, 1989–1992, 1995|
|Pedro Paulo Diniz||1995–2000|
|Ricardo Zonta||1999–2001, 2004–2005|
|Felipe Massa||2002, 2004-2017|
|Cristiano da Matta||2003–2004|
|Lucas di Grassi||2010|
This list is so long (and dates back so far) that I can’t remember a large part of it. It seems almost impossible to have F1 without a Brazilian. Having said that, I also realise that it seemed impossible to have F1 without an Italian, but apart from Giovinazzi we haven’t seen Italian drivers for a couple of years (and I cannot count Giovinazzi full, since he didn’t compete a full season)
Back to our Brazilians. Six Brazilians won at least a single F1 GP, and they racked up 101 wins in total. Everyone has their favorite and the obvious choice for most was and in spite of Massa, remains Senna. Senna won 41 races with Nelson Piquet a distant second with 23 victories. Brazil’s last win already dates back to 2009 when Barrichello won the Grand Prix at Valencia.
F1 saw Emmerson Fittipaldi crowned Brazil’s first F1 champ, followed by Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.
Although Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa never made it to become champions, they did have long spanning careers. Barrichello has the longest ever F1 career, spanning 18 years and 326 races. Both ended their careers at Williams. Writing this I realise that Massa was last year’s come-back-kid, we should never say never, and it isn’t really Massa’s choice, but currently I don’t see any possibilities for Massa to continue.
Massa is a seriously good driver. We have seen him de-class Stroll this year in most races. Hard to beat a rookie? Somehow I expected Stroll to be closer. Points-wise the difference isn’t that large, but that 3rd place in Baku got Stroll a healthy shot of points. Massa is seriously good, but just not the top. Felipe was world champion for about 10 seconds in 2008, when Hamilton took the championship from right under Felipe’s nose.. in Brazil.. that must have hurt.
For the most time Felipe accepted he was second driver. Behind Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. I have been told this was even described contractually. This never became a problem on the track.
Massa’s motivation and name will probably land him a seat where we can still enjoy seeing him drive. Before returning to Williams for the 2017 season, talks to drive a Formula-E car were already underway. We can expect that seat will materialise over the coming months.
Will Brazilians need to wait another 20 years for their next champion? Will the lack of a Brazilian driver change the emotion of the Brazilian visitors at the Interlagos circuit? Will there even be a Grand Prix in Brazil in the future? This writer and certainly Jos would be deeply disappointed if it weren’t to be the case!
Indeed even Bernie Ecclestone also has a special affiliation with the Grand Prix in that particular country, not just in the wife ‘better half’ department. Ever since the death of Ayrton Senna he personally took an interest, somehow perhaps trying to repay the entire country by making sure the passionate fans had a race there. Now he’s out of the F1 picture, the race has an uncertain future with Liberty in charge and little chance of another Brazilian driver racing in F1.
So the question remains, who wants a Brazilian?