Ferrari star Felipe Massa admitted that fourth position felt almost like a victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, after surprising even himself in making an impressive gain of seven places on his grid slot around a circuit that had never previously much shone upon the Brazilian.
Indeed, fresh in many people's memories were the five spins that Massa endured in the torrential downpour of last year's race, and after qualifying only eleventh, perhaps little was expected of the eleven-time grand prix-winner when the starting lights went out, but an impressive KERS-aided getaway immediately vaulted him up into eighth.
Though he would slip behind F1 World Championship leader Jenson Button to ninth, from there a long opening stint would gain the São Paulista four further spots, at the expense of the Briton, Jarno Trulli, Kazuki Nakajima and his own team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. A quick second pit-stop enabled Massa to similarly leapfrog Nico Rosberg in the Williams up to fourth and though he would prove unable to deprive Rubens Barrichello of the final rostrum position, nonetheless it was an excellent result given Ferrari's present level of competitiveness – and equalled his best of the season to-date.
“I almost feel as though I won the race!” he joked, having moved up into sixth in the drivers' standings, best placed of the 'grandee' teams' contenders. “To start eleventh and finish fourth is a really great result; we weren't expecting it and so we are doubly happy. We had a good strategy, and I pushed to the maximum at the key moments.
“Today, KERS was a great help, especially at the start, but the whole car was also working well. The team did a great job and the results speak for themselves. We have to continue down this route. It will be interesting to understand how the car's performance improved from one day to the next. Maybe it just needed those few extra degrees of track temperature to get the tyres working better.”
Whilst Massa progressed up the order, however Raikkonen in the sister scarlet machine went in the opposite direction, making a blinding start to grab fifth position after bravely brushing the grass on the run into Copse for the first time, but thereafter fading and seeming to fall back with every passing pit-stop, ultimately fending off the late-race attentions of Toyota's Timo Glock and Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India to nick the final point in eighth, almost 25 seconds adrift of his team-mate.
“I got a good start, but then I was unable to push as much as I could have done because I was always in traffic,” rued the Finn, 2007 F1 World Champion. “Obviously my grid position, given my fuel load, penalised me in terms of strategy. After the first run of pit-stops I found myself right behind Trulli, and from then on my race was pretty much over. I tried to pass him, getting very close sometimes, but it wasn't really on as overtaking is still very difficult.
“I ended up fighting with Glock but I could defend my position comfortably, both thanks to the KERS and to the fact that I actually had quite good pace. It's a shame, because given where I was at the end of the first lap, I could have got a better result. A single point is definitely nothing to get excited about, but it's better than nothing. The car wasn't bad today, much better than it had been in qualifying yesterday.”
That last comment is one that elicited frustration in the Scuderia's
team principal Stefano Domenicali, who urged that if the legendary Maranello-based outfit is to return to race-winning form in 2009, it first needs to figure out how the F60's competitiveness can alter dramatically from one day to the next.