Interview: Massa Looks Towards BMW

Ever since he came into Formula One, Felipe Massa has been talked about as a future Ferrari driver

Interview: Massa Looks Towards BMW

Managed by Frenchman Nicolas Todt, son of long-standing Ferrari boss Jean, the Brazilian was a test driver for the World Champions in 2003 before returning to Ferrari-powered Sauber last year.

The 24-year-old Massa admits he would jump at the opportunity but, despite some recent speculation about compatriot Rubens Barrichello's future at the Italian team, is not expecting a call from Maranello any time soon.

BMW, who take over Sauber next January, are the main focus.

"Everybody is talking about Rubens, but I think he will stay (next year)," Massa told Reuters in an interview before this weekend's British Grand Prix.

"If he wants to leave, if he is not happy at Ferrari, then for sure I think I will have a chance to go to Ferrari," he added.

"The only way for me to go to Ferrari is if Rubens leaves. But at the moment I don't believe he will leave Ferrari."

Barrichello has been a loyal sidekick to seven-times World Champion Michael Schumacher since 2000, winning nine races including the 2003 British Grand Prix. He has a contract until the end of 2006.

While the Ferrari driver has not suggested anything other than that he will stay, there has been some murmuring linking him to BAR -- where compatriot Gil de Ferran is now sporting director -- should Briton Jenson Button leave for Williams.

The fact that Barrichello has become more assertive at Ferrari, and last weekend in France signed an open drivers' letter to FIA president Max Mosley setting out their concerns over safety while Schumacher did not, has also been noticed.

BMW Talks

Massa refused to read anything into it all. "He has a contract until next year. Okay a contract is not everything, but usually you respect a contract. That's why it's hard for me to believe that Rubens will leave Ferrari."

Massa's deal with Sauber expires at the end of the year and he no longer has any contract with Ferrari. He is a free agent, weighing up his options and talking to several teams.

"I think we have a good chance with BMW because everybody knows me inside the team and they know what I can do," he said. "I think I have a good chance to stay there.

"The most important thing for me is to have a competitive car for next year, because I was always in Sauber...it's always a small team.

"Next year they will be a big team and I'm sure they have the capacity and the possibility to grow a lot and have really a top team and competitive car.

"So that's why I'm really looking to see if I can stay because it's a good opportunity I think to grow together."

Once seen as quick but inconsistent, Massa has matured noticeably in the last season-and-a-half. He makes far fewer errors and his pace, with a team that cannot afford to do much testing, has been impressive.

Had he made his race debut after graduating from the Ferrari testing stint, rather than as a raw and accident-prone 20-year-old in 2002, his reputation would be more glowing. But in Formula One, you seize whatever opportunity you can.

In any case Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 World Champion with Williams, has looked slow compared to him this year -- partly because the Canadian has been coming to terms with the car but also because Massa has done the business.

Villeneuve Compliment

While Villeneuve has faced endless speculation about his future, Massa was supportive of the Canadian.

"I don't think he's nowhere, I think I am doing a good job and people are saying just that Jacques is slow. But I don't think that is the case," he said.

"I like working with him very much. We respect each other, I think he has his ideas which are very different compared to mine, but sometimes he has very good ideas which work well in terms of set up.

"At first when I heard he was coming to Sauber I thought it was going to be a very difficult year...everyone was saying 'Jacques, he talks too much, he's a bastard.' But I don't think so. Step by step, I saw that he's a nice guy."

Together, they have scored 13 points -- Massa seven and Villeneuve six -- with Sauber seventh in the championship and nine points behind Red Bull.

Sunday's race at Silverstone could bring more points, even if Massa's chances of the first podium of his Formula One career look highly unlikely.

"If we can catch Red Bull it would be fantastic, that is our target," he said. "It won't be easy...we lost a lot of opportunities to score points. But I think it's possible."

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Felipe Massa
Author Alan Baldwin
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