Felipe Massa was left to walk away from both his smoking Ferrari and the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend having scored no points, despite leading for virtually the entire race around the tight and twisty Hungaroring just outside of Budapest.
The Brazilian – whose post-qualifying suggestion that the Scuderia
was not out of it yet had been dismissed in many quarters as merely trying to put a brave face on an unpalatable situation – proved to be every bit as good as his word come race day, producing a storming start to aggressively drive all the way around the outside of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton into the first corner after the red lights went out.
He then proceeded to gradually eke out a small advantage over his pursuer, seeming to have an answer to everything the McLaren-Mercedes star had to throw at him, and his position looked to be more comfortable than ever when Hamilton suffered a puncture just over midway through, gifting Massa a gap of more than 20 seconds over the sister Silver Arrow of Heikki Kovalainen.
Indeed, such was his advantage that the 27-year-old São Paulista was able to back off towards the end of the race, safe in the knowledge that he would not only break his Hungarian Grand Prix curse, but with it reclaim the championship lead. And then, just three laps from the chequered flag and having not put a foot wrong throughout, his engine went bang…
“It happened completely without warning,” he related, “without giving the slightest indication. I was managing the race, because I had a good advantage over second place after Hamilton was delayed with a problem, and I was taking no risks whatsoever.
“I am very frustrated at the moment, because today we had a great car and we had done everything perfectly until just a few kilometres from the finish. Unfortunately, racing can be a cruel sport. We had given it our all, but these things can happen.
“Now we must not give up, but instead we must react quickly. There are seven races to go and 70 points up for grabs, which means there is plenty of time to make up ground. Our rivals are strong, but we have shown we are at their level.”
Massa's conviction that Ferrari is still in with more than a decent shout of defending its dual crowns from 2007 was backed up by the Maranello-based concern's team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director Luca Baldisserri – both of whom nonetheless recognising the need for reliability to be swiftly improved to prevent such a late-race disaster from re-occurring.
“Today we showed the worth of our team and our drivers,” Domenicali underlined, “but we lacked the total reliability which is absolutely vital. Felipe drove possibly the best race of his career, and we are very disappointed about what happened to him just a handful of kilometres from the end.