Despite having received a slap on the wrist and a €10,000 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.