Felipe Massa can safely lay claim to coming closer to winning the Formula 1 World Championship than anyone else.
When Massa took the chequered flag to win the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix the live points standings meant he was the champion elect. His only rival, Lewis Hamilton, was in sixth place – not enough. But in the most dramatic dénouement in F1 history, the Briton charged through the final lap to pass Timo Glock’s ailing Toyota, on dry tyres in the rain, and take the extra point he needed. All within a minute.
Massa’s dignity in defeat earned him many admirers, as did his recovery from the serious head injuries he sustained during qualifying for the following year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
But the Brazilian hasn’t exactly hidden from challenges down the years. During eight seasons at Ferrari, Massa had the unenviable task of partnering Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso at their peak. He has spent the last three years with Williams Martini Racing, for whom he scored his 41st F1 podium at the 2015 Italian Grand Prix.
Massa made his Race Of Champions debut in 2004 and returned 12 months later. But it would be another decade before the popular Brazilian graced the ROC arena again in London. He then returned in Miami to rejoin Tony Kanaan at Team Brazil - a combination that made it as far as the semi-finals in 2004.
Runner-up in the 2008 FIA Formula 1 World Championship
Over 200 Formula 1 Grand Prix starts
11 Grand Prix wins, 41 podiums and 15 pole positions
2008 Six Grand Prix wins but misses the title by one point
2006 Became the first Brazilian to win home grand prix since Ayrton Senna
2006 First Grand Prix pole and victory in Turkey for Ferrari
2002 First F1 start for Sauber at the Australian Grand Prix
2001 Formula 3000 Euroseries Champion, six wins out of eight
2000 Won Italian and European Formula Renault titles
1999 Brazilian Formula Chevrolet Champion
1990 Made his karting debut
Years contested: 2004-2005, 2015, 2017 (4)
2017 SF, Race Of Champions
2005 SF, ‘Racing’ section of the Race Of Champions