Felipe Massa has described the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend as 'a very strange race', after the Brazilian inherited a victory that has propelled him to within just two points of the Formula 1 World Championship lead.
Despite starting up on the front row of the grid, the tricky conditions around the challenging Ardennes circuit did not seem to suit Massa as well as they did his defending world champion Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen or McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who left the #2 scarlet machine trailing in their wheeltracks for much of the race, never closer than about four seconds to the leading pair.
Though the 27-year-old – arguably the sport's current in-form driver having consummately dominated proceedings in both Budapest and Valencia in recent weeks – did briefly threaten to join the party following the second round of pit-stops, the late onset of rain and Raikkonen's accident just two laps from home seemed to dissuade his charge somewhat, as he elected instead to settle for a safe second place, just over 14 seconds adrift of on-the-road winner Hamilton at the chequered flag.
“This was a very strange race,” Massa acknowledged after being gifted the tenth win of his F1 career, “with the start and finish taking place in rather difficult conditions. After the start I thought Eau Rouge might be wetter and so I was a bit cautious. Kimi attacked and managed to get by. From then on I realised it would be hard to pass the two guys ahead of me, even if the lap times were quite similar.
“I tried to manage the situation, especially towards the end. When it started to rain, I had a pretty good margin over my closest pursuers and I preferred not to take any risks, especially given what was going on in front of me.
“Today the car wasn't perfectly balanced. On Saturday morning, we had slightly reduced the aerodynamic downforce, as you usually do for the race here, but today's track conditions definitely did not suit this choice. The hard tyres? They were definitely slower than the soft ones and lacked grip, which made the car a bit inconsistent in terms of balance.”
Massa's success was also praised by both the Scuderia's
team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director Luca Baldisserri as a potentially pivotal moment in the title chase, with the battle for both drivers' and constructors' glory inexorably closing in.
“This result is obviously very important for our championship hopes,” underlined Domenicali. “Now we must maintain maximum concentration and prepare as well as possible for the forthcoming races, starting at Monza where we will be racing in front of our home fans. We will also need their support at such a delicate point in the season.”
“Felipe drove in a very calculating fashion,” added Baldisserri, “without taking unnecessary risks when the conditions were really critical. The soft tyres worked very well, while the hard ones struggled a bit – we need to establish what caused this.
“As for the rest, the F2008 proved to be very competitive and the team worked in impeccable fashion throughout the race. Now we must continue to push, because we absolutely want to reach our objectives.”