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The temporary F1 pairing that introduced “enjoyable” to Sauber

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Had Nick Heidfeld’s profession path gone as anticipated then he would by no means have spent the 2002 Formulation 1 season at Sauber with Felipe Massa. The long-time Mercedes protege had received the German Formulation 3 and Worldwide Formulation 3000 titles in McLaren liveries, set the Goodwood hillclimb report in a 1998 MP4/13 and raced at Le Mans within the ill-fated CLR on what appeared a predestined path to changing into an F1 talisman for the Silver Arrows.

However Kimi Raikkonen’s emergence alongside second-year F1 racer Heidfeld at Sauber in 2001 meant it was the Finnish rookie that Ron Dennis as a substitute referred to as on to interchange Mika Hakkinen for 2002, because the double world champion started a sabbatical which was a everlasting F1 retirement. That left Heidfeld to proceed at Sauber, joined by one other newcomer in Massa who arrived contemporary from dominating the second-tier European F3000 championship.

PLUS: How Raikkonen’s rapid rise stalled his team-mate’s F1 career climb

However removed from letting any bitterness at what might have been overshadow their spell collectively, immediately Heidfeld picks out the Brazilian as his favorite team-mate from a prolonged profession that continued in LMP1 and Formulation E after his F1 alternatives dried up halfway by way of a partial 2011 marketing campaign with the Enstone crew then referred to as Lotus.

“Felipe Massa was my favorite team-mate on a private degree, simply such an all-around good man,” explains Heidfeld, who retains the report for essentially the most podiums with out an F1 win with 13, together with eight runner-up finishes. “He’s appreciated and beloved all around the world not just for his abilities but in addition for his character. As a team-mate, I can solely echo that he’s only a very nice man.

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“He was additionally actually trustworthy, which was not the case with everyone. We had a number of enjoyable collectively.”

Along with Raikkonen, Heidfeld would additionally race alongside F1 race winners Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Mark Webber, Jacques Villeneuve and Robert Kubica. He received Petit Le Mans with Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost as a part of a four-round American Le Mans Sequence programme in 2013 and later fashioned an efficient double act with Felix Rosenqvist on the Mahindra FE squad. However Massa’s cheery manner and an everyday pre-race routine caught with Heidfeld.

Heidfeld loved his time with Massa in 2002 after being neglected by McLaren

Photograph by: Sutton Photographs

“It form of developed over the yr we have been collectively,” the German recollects. “Earlier than the race, he would sit within the assembly and would undergo the race by saying, ‘the beginning I overtake him, then this occurs after which now we have a unbelievable pitstop’ – and in the long run of his monologue he received the race. On every occasion! I don’t know if he nonetheless did that within the groups he went to afterwards.”

Heidfeld maintains that being neglected by McLaren for 2002 “wouldn’t have modified something in any respect, not the slightest, on how I did go about racing” and that his “motivation was utterly unchanged”. Nonetheless, “from a enjoyable and non-racing perspective” Heidfeld says Massa’s presence within the crew was a welcome tonic “particularly when outdoors the automotive”.

“Again then Felipe already was a crew participant which is vital and Positive, he was open, I believe he did attempt to study,” reckons Heidfeld. “He did assist put an excellent vibe within the crew, which is all the time vital.”

Heidfeld loved going up in opposition to Massa in battles, relating to him as a “truthful and good man on the circuit”. They shared an F1 podium as soon as, at Spa in 2008, the yr Massa got here oh-so-close to profitable the world championship

Not uncharacteristically for a 21-year-old wanting to make their mark in grand prix racing, Massa had a bent for wildness in 2002. Famously, he incurred F1’s first 10-place grid penalty for breaking Pedro de la Rosa’s left-front suspension at Monza’s Ascari chicane, which Sauber ingeniously sidestepped by benching him for Frentzen at Indianapolis. However though Peter Sauber opted to interchange him for 2003, opting to maintain veteran Frentzen as Massa headed off to Ferrari to spend the yr as a tester, he had confirmed glimpses of the potential that might earn a recall for 2004 in an all-new line-up alongside Giancarlo Fisichella.

Massa outqualified Heidfeld on the first time of asking previous to the primary nook pileup that eradicated them each in Melbourne and, though he misplaced out 5-11 of their head-to-head, did contribute 4 factors that saved Sauber forward of Jordan within the constructors’ standings. The Swiss crew ended up fifth, dropping just one spot to Renault after reaching the giddy heights of fourth in 2001.

Massa joined Heidfeld within the factors (solely awarded right down to sixth in 2002) in simply his second Grand Prix at Sepang and once more in Barcelona, the place he peaked with fifth, and beat Heidfeld to the ultimate level on the Nurburgring. He ended up thirteenth, three locations beneath his team-mate, within the drivers’ championship.

Both Sauber drivers scored points in Barcelona as the team secured fifth in the 2002 constructors' championship

Each Sauber drivers scored factors in Barcelona because the crew secured fifth within the 2002 constructors’ championship

Photograph by: Sutton Photographs

Requested for his views on Massa being moved apart for 2003, Heidfeld remarks: “In motorsport and F1 you begin to not be shocked by many issues. However I believe in these years greater than I believe individuals take note of now, Felipe was extremely supported by [Jean] Todt and Ferrari.

“It could be completely different being moved from a race crew into only a check driver in case you have been simply anyone, however with the shut connection that Felipe had with Ferrari and Todt, I’d assume that I didn’t assume it was a foul factor as a result of at Ferrari you study lots and it was not saying ‘okay, he’s put massively on the sidelines’.”

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Certain sufficient, after two extra seasons at Sauber, Massa earned a race seat at Ferrari for 2006 and would go on to win 11 grands prix earlier than retiring from F1 on the finish of 2017. Heidfeld loved going up in opposition to Massa in battles, relating to him as a “truthful and good man on the circuit”. They shared an F1 podium as soon as, at Spa in 2008, the yr Massa got here oh-so-close to profitable the world championship he’s immediately searching for to overturn within the courts.

PLUS: Why precedent doesn’t favour Massa’s F1 legal challenge

Whereas it stays to be seen whether or not his bid to annul the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix 15 years later will yield the result he needs, Massa’s weighty contribution to F1 as a driver and paddock character is unlikely to be forgotten in a rush by admirers. And though his successes “reminds myself a bit little bit of what probabilities I didn’t have”, Heidfeld can definitely be counted amongst them.

Heidfeld says he appreciated the good vibe that Massa brought to Sauber

Heidfeld says he appreciated the nice vibe that Massa delivered to Sauber

Photograph by: Russell Batchelor / Motorsport Images

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