Despite having received a slap on the wrist and a EUR10,000 fine for his part in the controversial pit-stop incident with Adrian Sutil in the European Grand Prix at the weekend, Felipe Massa has insisted he was blameless - instead pointing the finger firmly at his rival.

The result of the race - in which Massa triumphed consummately from pole position - remained in doubt even once the chequered flag had fallen in Valencia, following a near coming-together between the Ferrari and Force India as they left the pits together on lap 37 of the 57-lap encounter.

As the former was released from his pit 'box, he pulled out into the path of Sutil, with the pair continuing to travel down the narrow pit-lane side-by-side in a potentially dangerous situation. Though he denied any knowledge that his behaviour was under investigation in the aftermath of the race, Massa did seek to underline his conviction that he had done absolutely nothing wrong.

"I think it wasn't very clever from his (Sutil's) side," the Brazilian asserted, "as even if he went out in front of me he needed to let me by, because I was the leader and he was being lapped. When I saw him I expected him to back off. I had stopped behind him in the pit-stop and we left together. When he was passing me by I was leaving the garage, so we were side-by-side.

"It was a shame to fight with him in the pit-lane. I needed to back off as we were very close and it was quite narrow and the wall was getting narrower and narrower, so I didn't want to take the risk. I lost a lot of time, but fortunately the gap (to Lewis Hamilton behind) was enough.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I think if it was under investigation it was more for Adrian; it was nothing to do with me. You need to respect the line, because we're all going at the same speed. We've seen these things happen many times - especially when everybody comes into the pit-lane together - both cars going side-by-side down the pit-lane, so for me it was completely normal. It's just racing.

"I don't think it was dangerous; it was just unexpected from Adrian because I was leading and I was beside him, so in the worst case he needed to let me by in the first or second corner. I left a margin because I didn't want to risk anything. I don't see any problem."

The race stewards, however, clearly did, but the punishment dealt out to Massa was considerably lighter than some reckoned it might have been - with suggestions the Ferrari star may face either a 25-second time penalty or else a ten-place grid drop for the next grand prix in Belgium.

As it is, he is now able to look ahead to Spa-Francorchamps unimpeded, and reflect on a race around the all-new, harbour-side Juan Carlos I Marina circuit in Spain's third city that was the ideal tonic to his agonising Hungarian heartbreak just three weeks previously.

"I think it is amazing," enthused the 27-year-old, F1's indisputable form man of the moment. "After such a bad result we come here, with a track which was new for everybody, and we just did such a fantastic job.

"It was really difficult choosing the right tyres, especially in qualifying, but I think we did a perfect job with that and then getting the pole position and winning the race and getting fastest lap.

"I had a great start - I have been making great starts this season - and every lap I was pulling away by a couple of tenths. We thought that Lewis was a little bit heavier than me - one or two laps, not more than that. In the worst case if it was two laps I think I needed three seconds in front of him, and we were more than that.

"I think we won the race in the second stint, as the car was just perfect and was improving lap-by-lap. Even if I lost time or he was closing the gap, I knew that I had a great car and that I didn't need to do a lot, just push a little bit harder and improve the lap time.

"We had everything perfect to win the race and I am just so glad and happy, especially after such a disaster in Hungary - there is nothing more we can ask for."

Indeed, it was a much-needed result for the S?o Paulo native, and one that has given him just the boost he required to be able to stake his claim to being the de facto number one at Ferrari for the remainder of the season. He did, however, admit that the thought of the engine in his F2008 letting go again as it had done in Budapest played on his mind over the closing stages of the race, particularly following team-mate Kimi Raikkonen's failure - and he urged the Scuderia to up its game on the reliability front, and fast.

"You need to bring the car home," he stressed, "and we need first of all to look at what happened, as I have no idea why Kimi blew an engine. We still need to work very hard to fix the reliability, as it has been an issue for us this year - especially in the first race, last race and this race.

"I am sure everybody is concentrating and working very hard to solve every problem that we have. We need to look forward, we have time to work and we have so many important races in front of us.

"Reliability will be the key for the end of the championship; it is part of the consistency, as if you have a single problem, you're not consistent. Consistency means the performance, the reliability and also the drivers, so I think all these things are very important to the end of the season.

"We're back on top, and all drivers want to be on top. I always want to beat whichever driver on the track. It doesn't matter if it's my team-mate or not, so it doesn't change anything for me. I always want to do my best. I have had a lot of good results this season, and a lot of bad results as well, but the mentality is the same.

"I was on top when I had the problem [in Hungary], so that is worse, in a way; when you can see victory in your hands and then it suddenly disappears with three laps to go, with the race almost finished, in a way it's more frustrating because you're not going to win. Now we need to keep motivating the people and working even harder to carry on at the top."

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