Since the life-threatening accident in 2010 that nearly cost him his sight, F1 driver Felipe Massa’s return to the track has defied expectation. At the 2017 Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Italy earlier this month, where he calmly made his rounds at a VIP meet-and-greet leading up to the event, the Brazilian racer’s complete recovery was on display. This stop on the circuit had special significance; it was on the home turf of Massa’s sponsor Martini & Rossi vermouth, and the pre-race air radiated with his and the brand’s lasting legacies. Although Massa finished in 9th place, to witness him back on the track was gripping in itself. Here, in the moments leading up to the race, he shares with DuJour insight and personal anecdotes on life on and off the track.
You’ve been racing since you were 8 years old. What drew you to the sport initially as a child?
I was always very competitive; it’s in my blood. I love cars, and I loved to compete in whatever sport I was doing as a child. I think the sport always helps in educating young drivers in terms of learning and training, too. I always knew I wanted to be a racing car driver. It was always what I dreamed to do.
How do you feel about racing in Italy?
It’s fantastic. Italy is one of the best places for racing because people really love motor sport here, and the fans are amazing, great people. It’s one of the best races for a driver, especially with the fans who constantly support.
How do the fans play a role in your performance?
I think the energy that they give to you gives you motivation and you try to do better, not just for you but for them.
Martini & Rossi has some exciting events around the Grand Prix in the pipeline, particularly here in their own backyard. Which are some of your favorites?
I really enjoy the Martini Terazzas – they are always really fun and the locations are always pretty cool.
Do you have any pre-race rituals?
Well, yes actually. I do. If everything goes well on Saturday, I try to repeat everything – my underwear, socks, trousers everything, just to keep it the same. I always get in the car from the left side to put my right foot first.
How do you like to unwind after a race?
I like to relax with family and friends – maybe have a nice martini!
What are your favorite things to eat and drink when in Italy (for work or play)?
Well pasta, obviously – I love pasta, pizza. Everything in Italy is good!
Any advice for aspiring drivers?
So I would say, learn fast, try to do your best, and always keep your right foot flat out!