Felipe Massa finally ended his long podium drought in coming home third behind the dominant Red Bull Racing duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring – and then admitted that he had thought a place merely inside the top five would be a tall order.
Following Ferrari's desultory start to the campaign – its worst in almost three decades in F1 – the Brazilian entered the weekend having not ascended the rostrum since his emotional victory in last year's Brazilian Grand Prix finale on home soil at Interlagos.
After qualifying eighth – albeit on a heavy fuel load – the 28-year-old didn't particularly rate his chances of ending that run around the Eifel Mountains circuit either, but he benefitted from Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren-Mercedes holding up a whole gaggle of cars early on, meaning he was able to leapfrog many of his rivals during the opening pit visits.
A number of laps fending off compatriot Rubens Barrichello followed, before Massa slotted into third place later in the race, getting the better of both Brawn GPs by dint of sticking to a two-stop strategy as the ex-Honda F1 outfit opted for three. Such was his pace, indeed, that the São Paulista took the chequered flag less than seven seconds shy of runner-up Vettel – proof indeed that the Scuderia
is now firmly on the comeback trail.
“It's been such a long time since I made it to the podium!” the eleven-time grand prix-winner – now up to fifth in the drivers' title standings – acknowledged afterwards. “I really wanted it after a very difficult first half of the season. Little-bit-little, we are improving and we will do all we can to get back to winning ways this season – I want to start hearing the Italian and Brazilian national anthems as soon as possible!
“A great start and the strategy were the keys to this result. In the first 15 laps I was struggling to keep Vettel behind me, but then I think he was struggling a bit with the tyres. Maybe I could have managed to get one place higher, if we had brought the pit-stop forward a bit, because I too was struggling with my tyres, but it's easy to say these things with hindsight.
“Before the race however, I didn't think I'd end up on the podium. A place in the top five already seemed a lot to ask, but then we saw that cars that in theory are quicker than us ended up behind us and we realised we had a good chance. We have to continue in this direction.”
There was only disappointment, though, for team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who on a similar strategy to Massa shadowed the sister scarlet machine for half of the race before colliding with the Force India of Adrian Sutil as the German exited the pit-lane in-between the pair following his first stop. The Finn would depart the fray for good on lap 34, after debris got into the radiator of his F60 and led to a loss of engine cooling fluid from the system.
“Germany definitely doesn't seem to bring me luck,” reflected the 2007 F1 World Champion. “I don't know how many times a problem beyond my control has forced me to retire, and this time it was down to debris. A shame, as I think I could have got a good result.