Felipe Massa says that Formula 1 has not got worse in the 16 years since he made his debut, despite widespread criticism of the sport during that period.
The 36-year-old, who had made his debut for Sauber in 2002, believes F1 is always criticized and that that essence of grand prix racing hasn’t changed much since he had joined.
“In the moment that I started, overtaking was very difficult, we didn’t have DRS and everyone was complaining about the same thing,” Massa told Motorsport.com.
“They said ‘ah, we need to overtake’, ‘ah, we cannot follow the cars’, ‘ah, the top teams have more than the other teams’, ‘ah it’s too expensive’… What is different? I don’t really see a big change.
“Maybe in that time, teams spent even more money than they are now but the gap between the best and the worst was huge, like it is now.
“This is F1. Hopefully it will change in the future, but I didn’t see a big change.”
Massa states that the challenge that F1 drivers faced is the same as it was.
“They are different cars but the mentality – the way you are driving, what you put into the car, how you try to get the best out of the car – is no different.”
“It’s just different types of cars, different rules, different tyres, different engines. To be an F1 driver, you need to be the best and you need to take the best out of the car.”
“It was always like that in F1, it hasn’t been anything different from when I started to now. How things work is not so different.”
Massa also believes that the experience gained by drivers of his generation before the introduction of draconian testing restrictions in 2009 – which initially banned all testing during the season – remains valuable.
From 2001, when Massa first tested for Sauber, to the end of 2008, Massa completed 260 official days of testing. In the nine-and-a-half years since, he has had only 66 days. A huge difference in testing days.
“The experience, the respect you have [for the car], I would say you have more and sometimes you see things before they happen,” said Massa.
“[But the younger drivers] have their opportunities and they learn and they do many races and they are still doing a good job.”
“So I may have more experience, but I don’t think it’s so different. A good driver is a good driver”.