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GP Week : Issue 41
The Todt and Massa team, from 2004 at Sauber to 2008 at Ferari is history. But it wasn’t all straight forward. Comparisons with his father have never been far away. “My father never advised me to enter the business,”Nicolas admits. “Unlike what many people believe he never pushed me to manage Felipe. Actually he even advised me not to set up my GP2 Series team, which I did with Fred [Vasseur.] He was against it because he knew that people would try to make a comparison, and obviously being compared to somebody who had been so successful is not easy but he never told me not to do it. He just gave me some suggestions. “But I think I did well not to listen to him, because in life you need to do what you are keen to do. My goal is not to do better than him, although 32 people will compare you because you have the same name. What is important is to do what you believe in.” But just as drivers such as Nico Rosberg, Nelson Piquet or Bruno Senna have found, a famous name can be as useful as it can be a hindrance. “It is an advantage and a disadvantage,”he admits. “I think it definitely opened some doors and it closed some doors. Because people look more at what you do so when it goes well you go up more quickly, but when it goes badly you go down more quickly.” The learning curve in driver management was steep. Without years in junior level driver management to use as a foundation, he was thrust straight into the political minefield of F1. “First of all I was a rookie, but I already knew a lot of people in the business. Obviously at the beginning some people did not give me a lot of credit because I was young, because of the way I arrived, but in this sport you are judged on your results. I, unlike many people at the time, saw that Felipe had great potential. He was doing a lot of mistakes, but when he was on track he was as quick as Heidfeld, which was a good thing. I think the management was first of all about convincing the team [Sauber] to take him back, and if you do well, the doors are more open. “When Felipe first started in 2004 at Sauber he had a very bad image as somebody who was very inconsistent, with many flaws, making many mistakes. I think I contributed to give him a second chance in Formula 1 which is difficult because people forget you very quickly. Then it was up to him to do the job, and he did the job very well.” And so, after two years back with Sauber, and with Nicolas firmly by his side as his fulltime manager, Felipe Massa was signed by Ferrari to partner Michael Schumacher. While many would argue that Todt’s job in sealing the seat for his driver was a tremendous effort given the fact that, at that time, Massa was still considered a big risk, Nicolas is reluctant to overstate his own role and take the plaudits. “I had stayed in touch with all the teams and then we had some luck because Barrichello decided to leave Ferrari. At that time Ferrari