24 September 2011
Massa still bothered by Singapore's notorious debut
Felipe Massa recalls the first-ever Singapore Grand Prix with less affection than most after losing a potential victory in a race he claims was 'false'.
Singapore's debut on the F1 schedule will be remembered for many reasons, but the most infamous part of the weekend will forever haunt Felipe Massa even though he was not directly involved.
The 2008 event, the first F1 street race staged under floodlights, took the sport to another new location, but also plumbed new depths as Renault F1 convinced rookie Nelson Piquet Jr to engineer a safety car period in order to help team-mate Fernando Alonso overcome a nightmare qualifying result. The Brazilian duly spun himself out of the race at just the right point for Alonso to benefit from an outrageously early pit-stop, and the double world champion went on to claim a victory much needed by a team needing success to ensure its future.
While the scandal - widely dubbed 'crashgate' in typical tabloid style - cost Piquet, engineering director Pat Symonds and team principal Flavio Briatore their F1 futures, Massa too still feels the indirect effect of the events of 28 September 2008, having been leading the race before a botched pit-stop under the safety car triggered by Piquet's 'accident'.
"What happened hurt me because, when you lose the title by so small a margin, you start looking back and one of the things that was an influence was Singapore," the Ferrari driver told Spain's AS newspaper, "Everyone knows that result was manipulated by what happened. Singapore 2008 was false, but the result was real."
Despite taking an emotional victory on home soil in the season finale at Interlagos, and believing that he had won the title for a few seconds, Massa ultimately had to settle for the runners-up spot after Lewis Hamilton got by Toyota's Timo Glock on a dramatic run to the flag. Alonso, meanwhile, went on to win the Japanese GP just a week after the Singapore race, and subsequently left Renault to partner Massa at Ferrari in 2010.
The pair remain team-mates this year, and Massa admits that he has never broached the subject of 'crashgate' with the Spaniard.
"Have I spoken to Fernando about it? He knows and I know how the world works," he answered enigmatically, "The past is the past - although I have answered 45,000 times what I think about it."
Alonso, meanwhile, pointed to more than just Singapore as reason for Massa's near miss in the championship, comparing it to his own disappointment in 2011, when he was overhauled by Sebastian Vettel at the final round in Abu Dhabi.
"Yes, he lost points here, but he also lost points in Hungary when his engine failed with three laps to go," he insisted, "When you lose a championship by one point, you remember all those things. When I look back at last year, I remember not winning in Belgium...."
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