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Q & A with Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa earned universal praise for his dignified response to being beaten to the world championship in Brazil last year, and four months on from that agonising last-gasp defeat, he remains gracious rather than frustrated.

During a promotional visit to South Africa to watch the Kyalami A1GP event and attend the launch of a new Shell fuel, Massa sat down with autosport.com to discuss events since Interlagos, and to share his thoughts on the new season.

Q. Michael Schumacher had a reputation for being a very selfish teammate, but in your case he was very generous. What do you put that down to? Did he like you, did you get on particularly well?

Felipe MassaFelipe Massa: Yeah, definitely. I think first of all I was always very fair with all my teammates and everybody I worked with, especially with Michael. For me, he was definitely a rival on the track. I always wanted to beat him. But he was something different, he was something more special. I was looking at Michael more like an older brother instead of really a big rival. And especially after the start of the (2006) season when I knew quite soon that Michael was going to stop, because he was very kind to tell me.

He was very kind with me all the time, through my career, even when I was the test driver. I think it was a good example that I had a future at Ferrari, and I wanted to do anything I could to help Michael to win the championship. And the relationship that we have is very much like a family, we're still very close.

Q. Do you still talk regularly?

FM: Yeah, quite regularly. Not every day, but every month.

Q. What do you talk about - racing, general life, family?

FM: Lately I've talked to him about the bikes, which he's taking too seriously!

Q. Do you think he viewed you as a younger brother in the same way?

FM: Yeah, for sure... I have my brother and my family, but the feeling (with Schumacher) is quite in that direction.

Q. After the Brazilian Grand Prix, how did you really feel the next morning?

FM: The next morning I didn't feel anything because I was sleeping! I woke up quite late...

Q. But when you woke up, your first thought was...?

FM: My first thought was definitely what happened in that race. But I'm not the kind of guy who takes what's happened and brings it with me for my life, because if you do that, you become a frustrated guy. So I take it as experience, and a life experience.

Sometimes life gives you something you don't expect, but for a reason. Even if you look at what happened with Lewis (Hamilton) in the first year, and then suddenly he became champion. Maybe he deserved to win more in 2007 than in 2008, but that's the way it is.

Q. Has it made you stronger?

FM: I think so, definitely. We need to take it as a good example to make you even stronger, not as an example to make excuses. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. If we make a mistake, we make a mistake, and that's it.

I think that's also a good proof that the championship was great - we were fighting until the last corner - and we almost won. Almost is not enough, but I think we showed that we were very, very strong during the whole season.

Q. You were the first driver since Alberto Ascari in the 1950s to have a chance to win the world championship on home soil. Accordingly this year, if it goes to the last race, it won't be your home grand prix. What are you going to do to make sure you do win it on home soil?

FM: It would be good to try everything you can to win at the second to last race. We'll try!

Q. When Kimi Raikkonen won the championship, Ferrari was very much Jean Todt's team still. Now it's a Stefano Domenicali team. This will be the second year under Stefano, do you think the team itself will be stronger?

FM: I think so. For sure the idea and the direction is to get better and better all the time. I think Stefano's showed he is a good worker. He's a hard worker. He's a completely different character compared to Jean Todt, but I think he's showed that he is able to do the job and for sure in his first year he was very successful already. Hopefully we can be even more successful in the second year. I have a great relationship with Stefano. I really support him in everything he's doing.

Q. The new car, how do you feel about it? With so many changes, is it very different to what you were expecting?

FM: It's a big change, for sure. It was different to what we expected at the beginning. But then after some laps you get used to the car, and now I think I'm quite comfortable driving the car and I'm getting used to the new rules very quickly. I don't think it will be a huge, huge difference.

Q. Ferrari had a KERS scare with Kimi, you haven't had any problems have you?

FM: I had a small issue, but not something where you couldn't use (KERS) anymore. It was a small issue, maybe something leaking...

Q. Battery leaking?

FM: No, around the car, but maybe caused by the KERS. But it was a small issue, not a big issue like we expected to have, to be honest. The KERS was causing a small issue in other areas, but it was not a big problem.

Q. You haven't had any safety problems?

FM: Not for the moment. We touch wood, but everything is going well.

Q. Do you get out of the car differently?

FM: No because usually the drivers are in the most safe place. Maybe if you have a problem... we've never had a problem and I hope we're not going to have... but if you just need to get out of the car you jump so you're not touching the floor and the car at the same time.

Q. So overall would you prefer to be with or without KERS?

FM: The drivers always like more power, so the KERS gives you more power, so it's nice!

Q. No problems with the new tyres? Can you get the heat in.

FM: We've tried so many tyres, we had three compounds in Bahrain. Two were working very well, and the other one had a higher working range and it was a little bit more difficult to make it work. But we need to know the track we're going to, we need to know the circumstances and the asphalt, and hopefully we're not going to have a problem.

Q. Did you run with the adjustable front wing, and are you comfortable with that?

FM: Yes, no problems.

Q. Do you get the feeling it will be more like Playstation racing this year - a button for KERS, a button for the front wing...

FM: I play a lot of Playstation so it's not a problem! I play everything, Formula One, GT5, and I play a lot of football!

Q. You've got a simulator at Maranello...

FM: We've got a simulator at Torino, with Fiat.

Q. And how does that compare to the Playstation, a lot more advanced?

FM: It's a lot more advanced for sure, but in terms of graphics it's not so far. Playstation is quite entertaining and fun to play.

Q. This year there are less races and a lot, lot less testing. What will you do to stay race-fit?

FM: For sure you need to concentrate a lot more on fitness to be always in good shape when you need to be in the car. Now when you're testing you always need to do more than 100 laps, so you need to be fit all the time. Maybe you need to be a little bit more close to the team, because maybe you're not testing but you are together for the development of the car and how you want it.

I think it will be even more important for the drivers to be close to the team. It's the same for everybody, so we need to get used to the new rules, especially with the economic crisis. It's something we needed to change for the good future of motorsport.

Q. Some of the drivers have said they will do more karting, will you?

FM: Yes, for sure. I love karting and I'm going to practice a little bit more.

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