Former Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill has insisted that Felipe Massa should not be overlooked in the battle for this year's drivers' laurels in the top flight, praising the Ferrari star's 'strong determination' to keep himself in the title fight.
Massa currently sits just six points adrift of McLaren-Mercedes' pace-setter Lewis Hamilton in the chase for the crown, but is inarguably the man of the moment, having consummately dominated the last two grands prix in Budapest and Valencia – and, indeed, he would now be atop the standings had it not been for his agonising late-race engine failure in the former when he was just three laps from victory.
The 27-year-old has comfortably had the beating of defending world champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen over the middle part of the 2008 campaign – to such an extent that suggestions are now being made that the Maranello top brass should place the Finn in a supporting role to Massa's title charge over the remainder of the season.
All-in-all, not bad for a man who – in the words of then team-mate Jacques Villeneuve – couldn't even drive 'in a straight line' during his stint at Sauber-Petronas back in 2005.
“What really does impress me is the fact that he displays a determination not to be counted out, or overlooked, when it comes to fighting for the world championship,” 1996 title-winner Hill – the last man to lift the trophy for Britain – told UK newspaper the Guardian
. “No question about it, he is a contender.
“What you've got to remember is that people evolve, and Felipe has demonstrated quite a strong determination to make the most of his opportunity as well as showing a willingness to take advice, particularly from Michael Schumacher, which has to be a positive thing.”
The 47-year-old – now President of the British Racing Drivers' Club, but back in his competitive heyday a fierce rival of Schumacher's on the track – was left pondering, however, just where the Brazilian gets his speed from.
“What I don't quite understand is how Massa gets the lap times he does,” Hill explained, “when he so often misses the apexes of the corners.”