Despite having endured two collisions along the way, Felipe Massa's drive in the Japanese Grand Prix has been praised as 'amazing' by Ferrari, whilst the man himself refuted all blame in his comings-together with Lewis Hamilton and S?bastien Bourdais.

Having failed to produce the goods in qualifying, Massa began the race around the Fuji Speedway from just fifth on the grid, and after a promising start on Bridgestone's softer compound tyres - the same rubber that had caused his issues the previous day - the Brazilian, like a number of other drivers, found himself forced out wide through the opening corner by Hamilton's desperately late braking.

Just over a lap later, as the two Formula 1 World Championship protagonists scrapped over sixth position in their efforts to regain ground, Massa ran wide into turn ten, and in cutting across the grass to rejoin ran into the McLaren-Mercedes, pitching Hamilton into a spin.

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For that the 27-year-old received a drive-through penalty, dropping him well down the field again, but some scintillating lap times and forceful driving saw him battle his way up through the order once more - almost being squeezed into the pit wall as he aggressively challenged Mark Webber in the Red Bull Racing in the closing stages - into eighth spot at the chequered flag.

That would subsequently become seventh position when Bourdais was penalised 25 seconds post-race for having been deemed at fault in his collision with Massa as the Frenchman left the pit-lane in his Scuderia Toro Rosso - a penalty many in the F1 paddock felt had gone to the wrong driver [see separate story - click here]. Not so, Massa asserted.

"[It was] a strange race with everything that happened on-track," he summarised. "In the end, seventh place is definitely not a disaster given that my closest rival failed to score points.

"At the start, I got away well and had passed [Fernando] Alonso and [Heikki] Kovalainen. Then Hamilton braked over the limit and I found myself sandwiched between one car on the inside and one on the outside, and all I could do was brake and stay behind. I think the duel that followed with Hamilton was hard but fair, and the drive-through really penalised my race.

"In the second part, on the hard tyres, the car was flying, which is very encouraging for the next races. As for the incident with Bourdais, I think there's little to say - I had already entered the turn and he hit me from behind, spinning me round.

"In the duel with Webber I saw a space down the inside and went for it. He moved over on me a little bit towards the wall which might have looked a bit scary, but it was not like that from the cockpit. Anyway, it was a very important moment in the race and I had to try. Now we will give it our all in the next two races. We have great potential available to us and we must do all we can to exploit it."

Massa's explanations were backed up by the Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director Luca Baldisserri, who both eulogised about a 'great performance' that saw the S?o Paulista chip two points away from Hamilton's advantage in the drivers' standings - leaving the gap at just five markers with 20 left up for grabs between now and season's end.

"A bittersweet taste after this race in Fuji," concluded Domenicali. "On the one hand is the regret at not having been able to exploit our great potential - today we saw that this weekend we had everything in place to come away with everything. For one reason or another, from the less-than-perfect qualifying yesterday, to the chaos at the start today, we never managed it.

"On the other hand, there is satisfaction from retaking the lead in the constructors' classification and for the slight gain made by Felipe in the drivers'. Today, our Brazilian drove an amazing race, with an incredible climb up the order, some great passing moves [and] showing great maturity.

"Now we head immediately for Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix. Our aim remains the same - we will continue to work hard and with determination to get the best possible result."

"Definitely a difficult race," agreed Baldisserri, "affected by what went wrong at the start. A shame as we had a great potential, as we went on to demonstrate during the race.

"In particular, Felipe put in a great performance, with incredible lap times. The F2008 proved to be very competitive at this track and I think that will also be the case in China. We will give it our all for the final two races."