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 Sébastien 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.
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.”