After a Chinese Grand Prix in which Felipe Massa had to be 'gifted' second place by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in order to boost his ailing title chances, the Brazilian's race engineer Rob Smedley hinted that neither of Maranello's drivers may in fact be the quickest in Formula 1 – suggesting that mantle instead belongs to McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
Massa was indifferent for most of the weekend in Shanghai, languishing six tenths of a second shy of pole star Hamilton in qualifying and three tenths adrift of Raikkonen, and it was a similar story in the race as he failed to keep pace with either.
Indeed, only a tactical late switch by Ferrari enabled the Brazilian to take the chequered flag in the runner-up spot, thereby ensuring he travels to his home race at Interlagos in a fortnight's time still in with a shout of drivers' glory – albeit an increasingly remote one, as even if he triumphs in São Paulo he will require Hamilton to finish no higher than sixth – and with, in the words of Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali, 'nothing to lose'.
“It [Massa's race] wasn't too bad, but we were just a little bit out-classed by McLaren and Lewis especially,” Smedley mused when questioned by ITV
about his driver's performance.
“I take my hat off to the kid; he has driven a really, really good race, [with] no mistakes and he has won by 16 seconds or something.
“You can put it down [to]: is McLaren the fastest car, or is Lewis just the fastest driver? If you look at him compared to poor old Heikki [Kovalainen – McLaren team-mate], he completely out-classed him this weekend.
“I'm a north of England boy, though, and I will keep pushing right to the end. It's never over until it's over.”
“This is a great result for the team, less so for me,” added Massa, bidding to become the first of his countrymen to claim the F1 World Championship laurels since the late, great Ayrton Senna last achieved the feat back in 1991. “Today's race was a difficult one. We were not quick enough to fight against Hamilton, [but] losing two points does not mean that I have lost hope.
“I will continue to fight right to the very end, and I can't wait to race in Interlagos in front of my home crowd. I will try my luck there – it will be the first time for a Brazilian, which will be a further incentive.
“There was no specific element that wasn't working on my car; it's just that today it was impossible for me to win. I feel a bit as though I'm in a penalty shoot-out in the football World Cup finals – we have missed the first two shots while the other team has scored, and therefore we cannot make any more mistakes and hope that they make three. It will be very difficult, but not impossible as we saw last year. The team is united and has faith; that is very important and nice too.”