Felipe Massa was both frustrated and surprised at having seen his 'great lap' pipped to pole position by chief F1 World Championship rival Lewis Hamilton at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, as Kimi Raikkonen's unbeaten run in the race came under threat on what would turn out to be a far-from perfect day for Ferrari.
Massa is undoubtedly the in-form man at this stage of the season, having dominated the last two grands prix, and he would indeed be leading the title chase now had it not been for his costly retirement from the lead in Hungary with an agonising late-race engine failure. He did not, certainly, expect to be beaten by a McLaren this weekend.
“I did a great lap, but it was not enough to be on pole position,” the Brazilian reflected afterwards. “Today we lacked a bit of speed compared to our main rivals, but the race is very long and, over a distance, we know we can be very competitive and therefore we are capable of fighting for the win.
“The start? It will be difficult to do a repeat of Budapest, especially as the start-line straight is shorter than at the Hungaroring. Then, we will have to see what the various strategy choices are and, obviously, how the weather evolves. If it was to rain, the race could be turned into a lottery.”
Despite the engine in his F2008 being newer than that of Massa and therefore in theory faster, defending F1 World Champion Raikkonen still could not match his team-mate around the longest circuit on the sport's calendar, as he lines up directly behind the sister car in fourth place – and looking increasingly unlikely to retain his unbroken record as the winner of the Belgian Grand Prix on every occasion since 2004. Only multiple world champions Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna have matched the Finn's achievement of triumphing in the race on three consecutive occasions.
“On my second run in Q3 I made a small mistake,” the Finn explained, “running wide at turn seven. That was a shame, as it cost me valuable time which would have seen me move slightly higher up the order on the starting grid. All the same, I am reasonably happy with my car, which seems to be behaving the way I like.
“Of course I'm a bit disappointed, as I would have liked to have done better – fourth place is far from ideal to go looking for the win – but it doesn't mean I've given up hope. We know we have good potential, especially in race trim. The weather will, however, be a key factor, and we will have to try and assess it as well as possible.”
team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director Luca Baldisserri both acknowledged that things could have gone better – and insisted it would be of vital importance on race day to remain alert to every possible change in the climatic conditions in what is a notoriously volatile and unpredictable region weather-wise.
The two scarlet machines looked anything but at-ease in the slippery conditions when the heavens did open during practice, lapping some way adrift of the pace of their silver competitors.