Felipe Massa may have returned to the top five in a grand prix for the sixth time in 2011, but he was ultimately disappointed not to have got more from the race that celebrated both his tenth year in the top flight and 100 appearances for Ferrari.
The Brazilian had qualified only seventh for his home event, beaten by the impressive Nico Rosberg, and was at a disadvantage to most of his rival having had to use a second set of the softer Bridgestone tyres to ensure his participation in the pole position shoot-out, but attempted to make a two-stop strategy work while most of the field stopped three times.
Although his gameplan, which required him to run most of the race on the harder rubber, looked slower on paper, Massa still produced a solid performance and looked a contender for fifth place even if season-long nemesis Lewis Hamilton had not been forced to retire the second McLaren while in pursuit. In the end, he came home half a minute behind Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso, securing sixth in the final standings.
“It was a difficult race, at the end of a weekend that was not the best from a technical point of view," Massa admitted, "We never managed to find the right balance and then came the sting in the tail of the puncture we discovered yesterday, which robbed me of a set of softs for the race and thus meant I had to make only two stops. I knew it would be penalising because I would have to do a lot of laps on the medium, a tyre with which we have a bigger performance gap than on the softs when compared to our closest competitors."
The result was a bigger frustration having come in a landmark race for the Brazilian, who had been presented with a giant cake prior to the start.
"Sure, I would have liked to celebrate my 100th grand prix with Ferrari with a much different result, but I have to accept the way things went," Massa sighed, "In fact, the race pretty much summed up the season - reasonably good on the soft, then struggling on the harder compound.
"I was very pleased to feel the affection of the crowd, who supported me from the start to the end of the weekend, but it's been a difficult year for me and the team. Now we can turn the page. We must work on improving the car and I will do all I can never to have such a disappointing season again.”
Team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed that the Brazilian had been hampered in his efforts to finally break the top four - or even reach the podium - in 2011, and vowed to ensure that both Massa and Alonso had a more potent machine at their disposal next season.
"We can definitely file away a year where our performance was insufficient by our standards, and think only of next season," he insisted, "Once again, we congratulate those who did a better job than us and we look forward to facing them again next year, when we will try to be the best of the lot. That is our target and we have no intention of hiding the fact. We have weeks of hard work ahead of us and will only start to see the fruits of our labours in February, when it's time to fire up the engines again."