Ferrari again proved to be 'best of the rest' behind McLaren and Red Bull in the Belgian Grand Prix but, sadly for the Scuderia's world championship ambitions, its only points at Spa-Francorchamps were scored by 'support driver' Felipe Massa.

After only qualifying tenth fastest on Saturday afternoon, the result of being fitted with worn tyres when the circuit was at its best, title contender Fernando Alonso already had his work cut out but, when opening lap rain caught most of the field out at the Bus Stop chicane, his problems were compounded by heavy contact with Rubens Barrichello's Williams.

Although the Spaniard was able to continue, unlike his assailant, the decision to pit immediately for intermediate tyres proved to be the wrong one and, having dropped him even further down the order, then required Alonso to make second early stop to switch back to slicks. He then proceeded to carve his way back through the lower order, and gained another couple of places when fellow title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button collided at the chicane, but, when the rain returned on lap 33, he lost any chance of points when he put a wheel over the kerb and spun into retirement at Malmedy.

"The first of the seven 'finals' went badly for me - and for two of the other five 'finalists'," the double world champion sighed, "Meanwhile, the remaining two [contenders] got the maximum results, and that means we will have to make up the ground lost today somewhere else.

"At the start, I immediately made up some places and the signs were that I could have a good race. Then, I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, when Rubens could not control his car under braking and crashed into me. I came straight back to the pits to change the tyres and to check the car was alright. We fitted intermediate tyres, expecting more persistent and harder rain, but that was not the case.

"Yesterday, we were hoping for rain but, when it came, it was already too late to be of much use to me. On the contrary, today it prevented me from getting the chance to overtake the cars which would have had to stop to fit the soft tyres.

"Eventually, I went off the track when I went over a kerb and that was my race over. It is a shame, even if the points I could have brought home would not have been a lot. It is very disappointing because this is a bad result - but it does not mean I have given up on my chances of winning the title."

Alonso now lies 41 points adrift of championship leader, the equivalent of unanswered first and second place results in the coming races, and chief engineer Chris Dyer does not share Alonso's confidence.

"The mood is one of great disappointment, because the lack of points seriously complicates Fernando's chances in the title fight," the Australian explained, "His race was immediately an uphill struggle, because of the collision with Barrichello, which meant he had to pit immediately.

"At that point, we took the gamble of fitting intermediate tyres, given that we had nothing to lose, but then we had to bring him in again for dry tyres. It was a good climb up the order but, in the end, he went off the track in the wet which ended any last chance of scoring points. Clearly, there is much work to do in order to tackle the remaining six races of the season in the best way possible."

While Alonso was seeing his quest for a third title fade slightly, team-mate Massa was collecting some welcome points for the constructors' campaign.

The Brazilian started from the outside of row three but produced a faultless drive to finish fourth. Briefly moving into the position as the safety car came out to clear the debris at the Bus Stop, the Brazilian lost out to both Red Bulls at the restart, but regained the spot when Vettel and Button clashed in front of him. The Brazilian pitted for fresh tyres on lap 23 and for intermediates just over ten laps later but, despite second-placed Robert Kubica having a poor pit-stop, it wasn't enough for Massa to gain any further positions.

"I think this is a positive result and, given the way the race went and the accidents that put Vettel and Button out of the game, we can even say we were a bit lucky," the Brazilian, who cements himself into sixth overall, commented, "This weekend, Red Bull and McLaren were stronger than us, but we worked well as a team, making the right choices before and during the race."

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