Thanks to a collaboration with Martini we had the opportunity to spend 30 minutes with the Formula 1 drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Botta. You can see the video below and read the full transcript underneath.
(ESP) Como parte de una colaboración con Martini tuvimos la gran oportunidad de pasar media hora con los dos pilotos de Formula 1 del equipo de Williams Martini Racing, Felipe Massa y Valtteri Botta. Aquí tienes los videos cortos. Y más abajo todo el texto completo en ingles.
Interview: René Lönngren
Photos and video: Marcelina Sosnowska
TRANSCRIPTS OF THE FULL 30 MINUTE INTERVIEWS:
How does it feel to be in Barcelona?
It’s fantastic, it’s a beautiful place. I really enjoy to be in Barcelona. It’s a great track, people really enjoy Formula 1 here and it’s a beautiful place. So you can enjoy working but also going to a nice restaurant as well so it’s really a enjoyable place.
And you’ve been here many times?
Yeah many, many times. Not only for racing, this is a place where we come for testing as well, so I came here many, many times since 2002 when I started racing Formula 1.
When you come here do you get the time to enjoy the city?
Not so much but something. Sometimes I manage to stay a few days and enjoy some nice places, to some restaurants and even like today when I am going to the Barça game as they are playing Bayern Munich, which I am sure will be fantastic. Sometimes you can manage to take a day off and relax a bit and see something in this nice time.
You enjoy football as well?
I love football, I watch and support Barcelona, and also I am sure my five-year-old son will fall in love watching this game.
Apart from football, what are the other things you enjoy doing in Barcelona?
I think it’s a great place for restaurants, you eat really well here, for going to the beach, to enjoy the town, with its good weather. There are so many thing you can do here.
In terms of the racing track, what is different here versus the other places you go to?
Barcelona is a track where you have some high speed corners but also a sector where you have slow corners, it is a very complete track. When you have a good car in Barcelona you will go very well. It is a track where you have everything, overtaking is not very easy here, so starting in a good position is important as well.
It is different than many other tracks, for example Monaco, which is our next race, which is a completely different track, slow corners, based in the middle of the town, very tight and narrow. Barcelona is more like a real racing track.
How do you feel about the upcoming race?
I feel good and I am really looking forward to have a good race here in Barcelona. We have had three weeks since the last race so we have been working a lot to improve the car, to make the car better. We will have some new parts that I hope will suit well for the car. We are fighting with some other teams that are very strong and I think we are in a good position as well.
As you have been here many times I can imagine you have a special feeling about the track here?
Yes sure, it is a track that every driver knows very well, it is a track we drive a lot, not just during the season but also in testing. We were actually here in February testing for three weeks. I am sure we understand everything about the track, all the tricks… It is nice to go somewhere that you know really well, even the roads going to the racetrack I know really well. You feel at home.
Do you usually stay here at the Hotel Arts?
Yes normally I do. It is a beautiful hotel, and you can relax really well. It is not so far away to go to the track, it looks far but it is actually 25 minutes or so, so it’s fine.
Do you ever meet with the other drivers, outside the track, having dinner or so?
It is not so normal in Formula 1. I don’t have any problems with the other drivers but it is a very competitive world that normally we see each other on the racetrack but not so much outside.
I get along with most of the drivers but being so close is not common, unfortunately.
Going back to Barcelona, is there a specific area that you specifically like?
I like this area around the beach and as we don’t have much time to go to areas that are not so close, so sometimes I eat at the hotel or even at the racetrack. So I only come back to the city to sleep.
It is just when you have a free day when you can go to have dinner, so we usually choose something close by for practical reasons.
If you would have friends coming to Barcelona what would you recommend for them to visit?
Football is fantastic, the Barcelona team is great, and of course Formula 1 you can enjoy here. Then you have fantastic restaurants and hotels, I think it’s a great place to walk around shopping.
And also, you can go to the Martini Terrace, which is a beautiful place where you can enjoy great food and music, very nice drinks as well, and you can watch us in the track with the most beautiful car, Williams Martini Racing, and support us.
You spend most of the year traveling, is it possible to combine the travelling with also enjoying the places you visit?
It depends on where you go. When you go to Australia you have to get there earlier as the jet lag is very big, so you have to get sooner to get used to the time difference. So there I might arrive on the Monday and have two-three days to visit some places.
When the race is in Europe it is just working, and then flying back home to Monaco where I live. Most of the races are just work and sleep.
It sounds very intense…
It is, it is definitely very intense.
How do you manage to keep up the energy in such an intense and competitive sport?
You have to stay very fit, we train every day, because driving a Formula 1 car is not just driving along enjoying yourself, it is very physical. You use a lot of your energy, long races and many laps. You have the strategy, the weather, the rain… so many things to consider so you need to be very focused and concentrated. You need to be very calm since things change quickly and you need to keep your concentration to understand what happens. You are working a lot on the car, the right set up, the collaboration with the engineers, everything is important you know.
That is why it is not only getting there and the race, there is a lot of preparation and a large group of people working for the same goal.
How do you feel about having hundreds of people involved and the pressure that puts on you?
I think the pressure is part of the game. You need to use the pressure to bring some extra energy, some extra power over yourself. I remember many races, especially racing at home in Brazil, and feeling the pressure on me, using that to take control of myself, so you need to take it as a positive thing. I managed to win many times at home and even fight for the championship there as well. Even last year we did a fantastic race with Williams Martini there, so you need to use the pressure as something positive, not as a negative thing.
You always have pressure in your work, especially in a world championship where everyone is looking at you.
Most people steer away from pressure, they avoid it, but not you. Were you always like this even as a young boy?
Actually I always had pressure in my life, many different kinds of pressure. I remember when I started racing, just after go karting, I didn’t have money to race so if I didn’t win the race I wouldn’t be able to do the next one because the budget was very small. So the pressure was high to win because if I didn’t maybe my career would be finished.
That helps and you learn a lot with that, how to do things. Fortunately things work in the best way and I managed to win when I needed it. You need to believe that nothing is impossible and do things in the best way you can. That is what I did so many times in my life.
Where does that belief come from, that everything is possible?
It is something that you learn in life as you grow. It has become more and more in my career and my life over time. It is a day-by-day learning and you get stronger.
Passion is something very present in your sport, how would you describe your own passion for racing and driving?
I always had a lot of passion for racing and driving since I was a kid. I started racing when I was 8 years in a go-kart. When I drove a go-kart for the first time I was sure I wanted to become a driver.
Before that my father was driving, not professionally but for fun, and it was always a passion to be with him, to watch what he was doing, to follow him, even if he was not doing it professionally.
It is inside. It is difficult to explain… when you are born with it and you want to do it, and you have the talent. If you don’t have the talent you can try but you won’t make it anyway.
So you knew from the first moment you stepped into a go-kart that this was it?
Yeah, I knew I wanted to be a driver, I didn’t know what category but I knew I wanted to be a driver. Formula 1 was far away, like a dream at the time.
You found your calling?
Yes for sure.
Did you have any role models? You said your dad inspired you, any other people?
Ayrton Senna for sure, he was a like a God and as he was from Brazil he created a lot of opportunities for Brazilian drivers. So yes, Ayrton Senna and my dad very important to show me what I needed to do to become a Formula 1 driver.
Did you ever meet Ayrton Senna?
No, never. Actually once I saw him, when I was a kid, and I asked him for an autograph, and he didn’t give it to me. It really hurt a lot, so I learned a lot from that. So now when I see a kid and they ask me for an autograph I still think about that.
In a way he taught you a lesson on being more humble.
Yeah for sure.
In your experience what are the key aspects of being able to live your dream and make a living from your passion?
Discipline is what keeps it together. In motor sport you have more difficult times than good times. You always need to believe that despite today being a difficult day tomorrow will be better. You need to believe that you can do it. That is what makes me grow and learn and become stronger every day. It is not an easy sport but a very good one.
You need to have talent as well, otherwise you can’t do anything. If you don’t have the talent you can learn and improve but to become number one will be difficult.
What other passions do you have outside Formula 1?
I love sport, I love to spend time at home, go to Brazil, I am Brazilian and I love my country, and when I can I go there to spend time with my friends and family. I love to go to the cinema, listening to music… I like pop and radio music.
Do you listen to music as part of your training?
When I train physically yes but when I am in the car I don’t. I listen because I enjoy it, not for it to give me something.
What role does creativity play in your profession?
It is part of the job. We definitely feel. We feel what should be improved, that is part of your job, what should be different, what should change, you are part of the development, working with all the many engineers, and you are part of that. The drivers comments are very important. The team always listens and try to improve, as you at the end drive the car, and feel the car. Actually you have it under you ass and that is the best way to feel the car, despite all the technology and data.
How integrated do you feel with the car?
Very integrated. Like a part of your body. If you don’t feel that you will loose some performance. If you don’t feel you loose.
I can imagine as you fit into that car you feel every single vibration… like a second skin.
Yeah, for sure.
And does that change when you get a new car?
Yeah, sometimes it’s like starting from zero again. Especially when the rules change in a big way, the car changes and you need to use your experience and work to get better.
I can imagine that feeling and listening becomes really important…
Yes every detail matters, to feel that everything is there…
It is so interesting this example of technology and human integration that a Formula 1 car represents. It is almost like an extension of your body. The next step would be to connect it directly to your arms…
(laughs) Yeah, and maybe we will have that in the future… seeing how things are going and the way technology is growing quickly.
Which has been your toughest moment?
I have had some difficult times. I would say that in Formula 1 maybe my accident. That was very difficult. I lost half of the season in 2009.
Is the scar we can see in your face from that accident?
Yes. I was getting back to the pit in the qualifying round, before the race, and the car in front of me lost a spring, of maybe one kilo, and it hit my face, straight through the helmet and made a big damage.
But it was not my time, I was just suffering a little to get back, and here I am now, one hundred percent ready. I have had some difficult races but that is part of the job as well.
What did you do to overcome that difficult time?
You need to think about tomorrow. Tomorrow is a different day. You need to do things in a different way. Learn from what happened today and do it in a different way tomorrow.
So the focus on the future was what brought you back?
Yes, one hundred percent.
And today what drives you to keep on going?
I love what I do and I race for a fantastic team, the Williams Martini Racing. I think when you do something you love you’re happy, which is the most important thing. When you enjoy it, things are fine. And keep pushing hard.
What would you do if you wouldn’t drive Formula 1?
Drive Formula 1. (laughs)
Yeah, that’s the only option?
No but when you do something that you always dreamt of doing and you like to do, you don’t think of other things. I like other sports, I like football but I don’t think I have the talent. It would be racing or cars. Anyway I do what I always dreamt to do.
What do you to prepare yourself mentally for the race?
Training very hard, I train every day to be very fit and working really hard with the team.
I also need my time to think about the race, the things we are working on, the track, the corners, to concentrate on to put all of these things in my mind.
That’s the way I do it.
How does if feel to be in Barcelona?
It feels good to be back in Europe, it is much easier for everyone travelling and for the team. Barcelona is a good place to start, it’s a great city, great atmosphere, a lot of fans, and always good weather as well.
What is different about Barcelona versus the other cities on the circuit?
It is nice to have a big city not too far from the track, which let’s you spend some time in the city as well which is nice. You dont’ have to be in the hotel or the race track, it is a cool atmosphere and a lot of fans always come here. And the track is also really good to drive.
How many days do you get to spend in Barcelona?
I arrived on Tuesday and I leave on Monday, so almost a week.
Do you get any time to see the city as well?
Maybe a couple of dinners or so. Normally the race season for us is pretty much between the hotel and the race track.
Have you been to Barcelona outside of the races?
I have been yes, many times. I really like the culture, the sport facilities and the possibility of running at the beach.
Have you been running at the beach?
Yeah, I have, it’s very nice.
Do you have a specific morning routine that you do?
Normally I do sports in the morning.After breakfast I do some training, that is pretty much it for the morning. I do that all year around.
Do you have any favourite place in Barcelona?
I can’t say I have a favourite one, but I really like the port area. There are lot’s of good restaurants there, the beach and great views.
I have heard you’re into cooking, is that right?
Yes I am. When I am home I cook much more often myself then going out. Because it is healthier and I really like cooking. I am not a master chef yet, but trying to get better.
Are you inspired by the local cuisine?
The time I have to spend at home is very limited so my cooking is mostly Nordic, although I do mix influences.
If you would talk to your friends about coming to Barcelona, do you have any specific tip that you would give them?
If you come here for a proper holiday you shouldn’t miss the nightlife, it is pretty cool, especially in the summer. It is very lively, lot’s of great terraces.
What recommendations would you give to someone that won’t be able to make it out to the race track?
For sure there are plenty of cool things to do in town. First thing would be the Martini terrazza, down in Port Vell. They have great food, great music, great atmosphere and plenty of people. That should be a good fun party. Just make sure, please, to not drink and drive. Either go walking or, actually, they are giving discounts for taxi, I think it’s five euros, so you should check it out.
You spend most of your time travelling.
Yes I do. I don’t know how many days per year, but definitely more than standing still. Normally when you go racing in Australia or China you need to get there early to adjust to the time zone. And if there is only a small gap to the next race you better go there directly. It is a lot but in the end it is the same for everyone. Sometimes it is not easy but it is definitely worth it.
“I AM LIVING MY DREAM AND ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT”
Some people ask me “how can you travel so much and spend so much time airplanes?” but I don’t mind, I am living my dream and enjoying every moment, every single day.
Sounds fantastic, living your dream. Has it always been your dream?
Yes it has, since I was a kid when I first tried go kart when I was five. It was my dream to become a Formula 1 driver and being a successful one.
And how does it feel to achieve your dream?
It is a bit surreal. There are many small steps along the way, to then one day you become a Formula 1 driver. It happens slowly. Then you’re thinking “wow – I am actually doing this” but many times you are just focusing on the job, trying to your best, and you might forget to enjoy it so that is why I remind myself of how lucky I am.
So even achieving your dream is a job sometimes?
It is a lot of hard work, but I really don’t mind. It is the way it is.
Have you had any particular hard moments?
Yes sure, if you get poor results and especially if you gave a 100% and then the results are just not coming. If you are that kind of person you can take a lot of pressure, everyone is demanding for you to perform. It is never easy if you don’t make the results. I always remind myself that when you struggle every single time you come back stronger. It is a good way to turn it around.
“I ALWAYS REMIND MYSELF THAT WHEN YOU STRUGGLE EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU COME BACK STRONGER”
My most difficult moment in my career was the first race this season. I had a back injury and I had to miss the race. That was pretty tough.
What were you thinking and feeling when you knew you had to overcome that and come back?
I knew there was nothing I could do about the injury, it happened, so now it was all about getting it fixed and doing everything perfect to get ready for the next race, that is all you can do.
That is a really interesting point, this enormous pressure you have, so I wonder what have you learned about overcoming obstacles? Anything you can share that has been particularly useful for you?
A good way is to always remember to trust yourself. If you don’t trust yourself no one else will trust you either. Always trust that your talent and that you can do it.
Having difficult times are normal, everyone will have difficult times occasionally and those who will become successful are those who can overcome this times by trusting yourself and work really hard.
I think many of the best outcomes and result come from when you are really enjoying the moment, I think that is really important.
Enjoying yourself and trusting yourself you say, how did you learn how to trust yourself?
(laughs) Maybe by winning. As a kid, winning, maybe a junior formula series, and step up to the next level in my career. You always remember those things. You remember that you can do it.
Learning by experience, doing and always trying to learn more. That’s the key to success.
“THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS DOING AND ALWAYS TRYING TO LEARN MORE”
I’d like to speak a little bit about creativity and passion. How would you describe your passion for driving and racing?
It is a big passion. I started as a kid, my motivation has never been down, it is growing all the time really. It was always the thing I wanted to do. For me it is pretty much everything at the moment.
What are the key aspects of being able to make a living for your passion?
The will of doing things, the will of keeping on improving, that is really important. For sure you need to be talented in what you do. in a difficult sport like motor sport if you are aiming for Formula 1 you also need a lot of support from people and companies, financial support as well. So sometimes you need to be either really clever or just at the right place at the right time.
It is not easy, but it is possible.
When I was a kid I saw the Formula 1 races on TV and there were 24 drivers. Many people told me it is crazy, there are only 24 people in the world. But I said “there are 24, they are there, why can’t I be”
So it is possible.
That confidence, even thinking so big, is there something you remember growing up that inspired you to think like that?
Yes, there were several people that were big motivators. Like the Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen, when he won his two titles in the late nineties that was a massive thing in Finland, that inspired me to go further.
So seeing him made you feel that if he can do it, and he is from here, that I can do it as well?
What about your parents, where they supportive of this big dream?
Yes, massively. I was lucky. I think my father was very clever, he was always questioning me, every year, “Is this really what you want to do? Don’t you want to play ice hockey instead? Are your really enjoying yourself?” Then at some point I said, “Now you can stop asking, i want to go until the end”. Then he realised that OK this is it. They always supported me financially and with time. It was not easy, they had both normal jobs and as I came home from school I would call “Can we go to the go kart track now?”. I got all the support they could give, and it was enough.
Very inspiring to hear about the great support you had from back home. So important for parents to support their kids dreams, and the pursuit of them, and their role models, so that they can see that it is possible.
What about creativity, what role does creativity play in your life?
I think it is really important in Formula 1, in driving, you know, how you drive the car, how you set up the car. But also in life in general, I think to get the balance right you also need to be creative, the way you organise your travelling, where you live, how often you meet your friends and parents.
And in terms in driving, is creativity something that you get trained in or talk about?
Yeah definitely, in race strategy, in putting in a good qualifying lap, how to manage the tires, the fuel, the engine, you need to be quite creative.
Do you apply thinking out of the box in racing or is it just about focus and mathematics?
It is not only about pure focus and mathematics, if you race against another driver for a position you need to be clever in the way you defend or try to overtake. In driving there are many, many examples of that.
In the team there are people there to only overlook the global perspective, which is not focusing on one thing. There always needs to be someone there that is looking outside the box, questioning things and seeing the big picture.
Is that driver’s role as well?
Sometimes it is difficult for the team, even with all the technology and all the data, they still need the feeling of the driver in the car. You can feel something that the engineers can’t see in the data.
It could be something with engine or the front end, that it is drifting out in the corners, and despite all the technology the engineers can’t see it, causing the front wing to stall. You still need the proper drivers comments.
How much does the role of the driver influence the development of the car?
It does quite a bit, but for sure much less than for 20 years ago because the technology has improved a lot, all the testing and measurements are evolving. It is now all about getting much better air dynamics in the car and that is done in the wind tunnel and unless the driver is a super good engineer as well he can’t do much about that. Somethings can still be influenced by the driver, mechanics for example, like the suspension.
What other interests do you have outside racing?
Quite a few actually. I found out after my first year in Formula 1 how important it is to also have other interests and actually commit to something else. If you life is Formula 1 for 365 days a year for 10 year I think you get crazy, you will not enjoy yourself as much as it would be ideal to. I do like other things. I played ice hockey as a kid I really enjoy that. There is actually the world championships on right now so I am following them with interest.
I do like cooking, healthy food, making the food myself…
What would be an example of something you prepare a lot?
Well, quite a lot of of fish. Fish dishes and lot’s of vegetables, ideally in season, like esparragos now, and plenty of different of salads. I like to eat light food because that means you can eat more, and that’s cool.
I do like shooting as well. I have been doing some clay shooting, it is kind of a new thing that I started last year, I am committing more and more time to practising that. I find that to be a really nice way to switch off.
What do you think you would do now if you wouldn’t be a race driver?
Probably some other sport, most likely ice hockey. I really enjoyed it, but racing was more important for me. I still go and play sometimes with my friends back in Finland.
So it would have been within sports no matter what?
Yes definitely, I am too competitive for normal things. People would get crazy with me because I always just want to win.