Felipe Massa has admitted that Ferrari could be forced to do away with its unique and controversial 'traffic lights' pit-stop method, after a third catastrophic error in as many races saw the 27-year-old slip seven points adrift of the Formula 1 World Championship lead following the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix at the weekend.
Having stormed to an unchallenged pole position in qualifying around the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit ahead of the sport's first-ever night race, Massa went on to pull away from McLaren-Mercedes title rival Lewis Hamilton over the opening phase of the grand prix, until Nelsinho Piquet's coming-together with the wall on lap 13 spelt disaster for Ferrari.
After already encountering problems with its automated pit-stop system in Valencia – when Massa almost collided with the Force India of Adrian Sutil upon leaving his box, and reigning F1 World Champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen pulled one of his mechanics down to the ground as he accelerated away too soon – there was further calamity in Singapore, as the Brazilian was mistakenly given the green light to go before the re-fuelling hose had been detached from his F2008, ripping it away from its rig in the process.
The ensuing chaos saw Massa pull out with the hose still attached to his car, knocking one of his mechanics over and again very nearly coming together with the passing Sutil, before touring down to the end of the pit-lane and stopping to allow for his pit crew to remove the offending hose – but with the time lost and a subsequent drive-through penalty for the misdemeanour, his challenge was over.
“It was not a technical failure, but a human one,” Massa is quoted as having said by F1SA
, explaining that the mechanic in question had simply pressed the 'green light' button too soon. “The same thing can happen with any system. Of course we could return to using a lollipop, but the problem was not about this.”
The latest drama could prove costly indeed, with the São Paulista native having now slipped some seven points adrift of Hamilton in the chase for the crown, with only 30 remaining to play for over the final three outings of the 2008 campaign in Japan, China and Brazil.