Signed to Ferrari before he joined Sauber in 2002, Felipe Massa was told he had to keep his new contract with the Italian stable a “secret”.
Winning the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup as well as the Formula Renault 2000 Italy in 2000, Brazilian driver Massa caught the attention of several race teams, Ferrari being one of them.
The Italian outfit approached the driver, signing him to a long-term eight-year deal.
That saw Massa race for the Ferrari-powered Sauber team in 2002 before taking up a test driver role with the Scuderia.
He returned to Sauber for two years after that before being promoted to a Ferrari race seat.
Massa though, wasn’t allowed to share his joy when he was first signed.
Speaking in Motorsport Heroes, a feature film by Manish Pandey that is available on Motorsport.tv, the Brazilian spoke about his first contact with Ferrari.
“I won the Italian and European [Formula Renault 2.0] championships in the same year,” he said. “So then I had many people trying to get me under contract.
“This guy organised a meeting for me in Maranello with Ferrari. And I didn’t know it then, but they were watching everything that I was doing – testing, telemetry, racing, everything.
“Then they said ‘OK, what we are going to do is sign a contract with you as a young driver for Ferrari’ – which they had never done before – ‘but you cannot tell anybody, it needs to be secret.’
“So then I signed a contract with Ferrari for eight years and I could not tell anybody! Only my family. That was really hard.
“Then I raced at Sauber, still with Ferrari engines, and then I had this call to say that Ferrari had taken a decision, and they’d decided on me, so I raced for Ferrari in 2006.
“For me, it was like a dream come true.”
Massa would go onto take 11 grands prix wins, 15 pole positions and 36 podiums with Ferrari.
He also finished runner-up in the 2008 Drivers’ Championship, losing to Lewis Hamilton by a single point.