Masta Valsattis

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Mastaliano "Masta" Valsattis (born 1976-1977) is a Latvian racing driver who competed in F1RGP2C from 1994 and Formula 1 from 2003. He is the older brother of F1RWRS driver Matthias Valsattis.

Early career

AdrianSutil's call

1994-97: F1RGP2C

1994

With the time-travelling F1RGP2C series beginning in 1994 with future drivers featuring on the grid, Masta was interested in driving. Sure enough, Minardi was willing to give the 17-year-old Latvian a drive alongside the Briton Andrew Spokes.

In pre-season testing, Masta showed some decent pace, usually in the lower midfield, and thanks to attrition, he finished tenth in his first race. After this though, excluding a thirteenth place in San Marino, Masta fell victim to the Minardi's terrible reliability and failed to finish a single race until Hungary, getting generally outclassed by Spokes in qualifying (the Englishman also scored a surprise podium in Great Britain).

Things started to improve in Hungary, where Masta finally finished again, in tenth position. He wouldn't retire any more in the season. However, he was still outpaced by Spokes, Masta's low point being earning the Reject of the Race award in Italy (jointly with Sebastien Belo) for simply being slow. Blaming his relationship with the team, Masta announced his departure from Minardi at the end of the season. At the same time though, he took the seatholder position at Minardi, effectively becoming the team principal, and extending Spokes' contract at Minardi for 1995 F1RGP2C season, also offering a drive to Miko Fäkkinen, Samael Meerwick and James Davies. Masta himself announced that he was hesitating between Simtek, Forti and Pacific for 1995.

Eventually, Spokes and Fäkkinen accepted the offers, while Valsattis signed to drive for the new Forti team alongside Polish rookie Sebastian Gazurek.

In the second-last race of the season, in Japan, Masta had the race of his life, first outqulifying Spokes for the first time, then running in fourth position, before a late spin dropped him to sixth, scoring his first point. However, the simple spin won him Reject of the Race again, shared with 20 other drivers. It turned out to be his only point of the season, and he finished the year in 24th position.

1995

Masta's decision to drive for Forti wasn't his best, to say the least, as the car ended up being the slowest of the lot. Masta showed this by failing to qualify for the first six races, while his team mate Gazurek qualified for all of them. Valsattis' first chance to shine came in the French Grand Prix, where Tom Douglas was banned. Masta contacted seatholder Luca de Montmelo, who gave Masta the drive for Ferrari. He was temporarily replaced by Martin McFry.

Masta wasn't very slow, qualifying eighth and starting well. However, on lap 12, he collided with Leonhard von Gottorp while returning to the track, earning Reject of the Race, and retiring on lap 30 after a puncture. Montmelo wasn't impressed, and Valsattis returned to Forti for the following races.

In his first race back, Masta finally outqualified Gazurek, and came within a tenth of a second of qualifying for the race, which he did in the next round in Germany, after a bad performance by Pippa Mann, allowing Masta onto the grid in 26th position. This didn't last, as he retired early on with a mechanical failure, but he set the 23rd fastest fastest lap of the race, quicker than Meerwick, Zielenkovski and van Dycke.

Valsattis again started in Italy, this time outqualifying Ben Fleet and Anton Kaliniczenko, then Mann and Tramontani in Portugal, although he retired both times. He was showing good pace for his car, though, and quickly started to look for a better drive, stating Tyrrell, Ligier and Arrows as objectives. Ligier was the first to offer a contract, and Masta quickly signed, at the same time confirming Gio van Dycke as Minardi's second driver for 1996.

In Spain, Valsattis outdid himself by outqualifying his teammate, Tramontani and both DAMS to qualify in a dizzying 24th place, then setting the 18th fastest lap of the race before retiring once more. But Masta's high point of the season was definitely at Suzuka, where, after starting 25th, he climbed up to 16th, defending his position very well, before being knocked off the track by Reiko Megumi, then climbing back up to 11th position thanks to attrition, earning the IIDOTR award. This prompted Masta to demand a one-off at Williams!

Forti ended the season woefully off the pace, and Masta failed to qualify for the last two races. But the season wasn't over yet, as in the 1995 Duel in the Desert, Masta shocked the establishment once more by qualifying in an astonishing third position in the Forti! His race wasn't what you'd even call bad, it was horrible, and he dropped to last position while Gazurek raced his way to sixth place.

However, the drama wasn't over for Masta, since Ligier seatholder Dennis Mignolet signed Douglas Mann as second driver, yet needed to give Reiko Megumi a drive to keep the Mugen Honda engines. It was decided that Valsattis would only drive 10 races, while Megumi would take the remaining six, with star driver Mann doing every race.

1996

With Masta on the sidelines for the first three races, he decided to look for a temporary drive, which he found at Sauber for the first two races.

The Ligier, sadly, turned out to be quite a disappointing car. The Sauber was also underwhelming, but Masta could easily keep it inside the top ten. In fact, he was sixth when he retired in Australia, and drove a brilliant race in Brazil to finish fourth, earning the IIDOTR.

However, when Megumi was banned for the Argentine Grand Prix, Valsattis was shafted in favour of Robert Anderson, although Mignolet claimed that it was due to Masta's busy testing schedule. In his second race back, in San Marino, Masta collided with Pippa Mann's Williams, the car taking off and ending ending in the wall. Valsattis was taken to hospital with a sprained tailbone and a concussion, but recovered fully for the Monaco Grand Prix.

But the Ligier was only capable of good results in the hands of Mann, who could only manage two points in it! Add to that the fact that the car was woefully unreliable, and Masta's lack of points was understandable. He still managed to impress with some good drives, like in Germany, where he ran in seventh position before his engine let go.

Still, he was pretty good with what he had, and he signed for a second season in 1997. He also confirmed van Dycke and Fäkkinen at Minardi for a second straight season. Masta finished the season on a high note by finishing in fourth position in the Duel in the Desert, the best result of the season for Ligier.

1997

The new Ligier was competitive from the start, and Masta was easily quicker than his team mate Megumi. In the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Masta was running fourth before a collision with Samael Meerwick caused suspension damage, which eventually pitched the Ligier into the wall.

Sadly, like in 1996, the car was still unreliable. In Argentina, Masta tied his Ferrari effort with eighth place on the grid, but soon retired. In San Marino, however, Masta qualified sixth and, thanks to consistant pace and brilliant team strategy, took a popular and unexpected maiden victory!

But the car was still very unreliable, and after a seventh place in Monaco, Valsattis retired three consecutive times. His next finish was in France, where he again drove a very good race to finish on the podium in third position, putting him in an impressive sixth position in the championship.