Having looked odds-on to overhaul Lewis Hamilton's lead in the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship for the first 13 laps of this weekend's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, Felipe Massa was ultimately left to walk away empty-handed from the sport's first-ever night race – but, he insists, unbowed.
From his unchallenged pole position in qualifying, Massa held onto his advantage when the lights went out, going on to pull away from Hamilton. All was looking good for the Brazilian's sixth victory from 15 races in 2008 – and one that would have set him firmly on-track for title glory – when Nelsinho Piquet's accident brought out the safety car, and sent most of the other drivers scurrying for the pit-lane en masse
Having already encountered problems with its automated pit-stop lollypop in Valencia – with Massa being released directly into the path of the Force India of Adrian Sutil, and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen similarly pulling away too soon – the Scuderia
again experienced serious issues at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, with the green light being given before the re-fuelling hose had been detached from the #2 car.
That saw Massa drive away with the hose still attached – pulling a mechanic down in the process and requiring his pit crew to dash to the end of the pit-lane where he had stopped to remove it. The 27-year-old would subsequently receive a drive-through penalty for the incident, and allied to a puncture and late-race spin, the dramas consigned him to a lowly 13th spot at the chequered flag – whilst Hamilton took away six points for third place.
“It's hard to deal with losing in this fashion a race that was within our grasp, with a car that was just the way I wanted it,” the São Paulo native reflected afterwards. “We had a good strategy and all the signs were there that we could get a one-two finish – but things can change in a moment, and that's what happened today.
“At the pit-stop, one of the guys made a mistake – but we are only human. Each one of us always tries to do our best and these things can happen. With the safety car still on-track I didn't lose a lap, but then I got a drive-through and later I also picked up a puncture in the left rear.
“On this track it is almost impossible to overtake, and ending up at the back meant I had no chance of getting into the points. Seven points to make up in three races? That can be a lot or it can be a little. We have the potential to do well, as we saw today, and we will give it our best shot. We mustn't give up and I'm sure we won't.”
Those sentiments were echoed by both the Maranello-based outfit's team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director Luca Baldisserri, who endured the double pain of not only seeing neither scarlet machine finish inside the points for the first time this season, but worse still having to relinquish the lead in the constructors' standings to arch-rivals McLaren-Mercedes.
“A black day,” Domenicali acknowledged. “There's little else to say. We had the potential to finish first and second but we didn't even pick up a point. We are very disappointed, but that doesn't mean we are downtrodden. We have always shown our ability to react – especially at the most difficult times – and we will do it again this time.