Felipe Massa has emerged as the dark horse to claim the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship laurels - that is the view of expert ITV-F1 commentator Martin Brundle, as the Brazilian heads to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix this weekend leading the title chase for the first time in his career in the top flight.

Massa claimed the lead in the drivers' standings following his French Grand Prix success just over a week ago, and he now sits two points ahead of BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica, with Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen a further three in arrears and Lewis Hamilton ten adrift.

Though he is in many ways the unnoticed member of the quartet seemingly battling it out for glory - with Hamilton taking all of the media glare, Raikkonen being the defending champion and Kubica's consistent brilliance this season coming so out-of-the-blue - Brundle believes the man who has won more grands prix than anyone else so far this year could just go all the way, crediting his race engineer Rob Smedley with giving Massa 'a more steely edge' in 2008.

"We saw him deliver his almost customary victories at Bahrain and Turkey," the 49-year-old wrote in his latest column for the Sunday Times, whilst acknowledging that Massa had 'made major errors' back towards the beginning of the campaign, "but it was generally accepted that over the course of the season Raikkonen would be the one to put in the critical fast laps around the pit-stop window, get to the front and control the race.

"Massa has apparently upped his game yet further this year, though. On his day Massa is immense. [He] is impressing me in the level way in which he is handling success and failure, taking both in his stride. It is not at all inconceivable that he could be this year's world champion."

Whilst acknowledging that the Magny-Cours one-two had been another 'really great result' for Maranello, the man from S?o Paolo himself insists he is now firmly looking ahead to the next challenge. Moreover, he is optimistic that the stiff neck with which he was forced to grapple in France, and a subsequent bout of the 'flu, will not affect his ability to fight for victory at Silverstone, a race in which his previous best finish has been just fifth place, in both 2006 and 2007.

"It's nice to be leading the championship and to see your name at the top of the sheet," the 27-year-old reflected, on becoming the first of his countrymen since Ayrton Senna to achieve such a feat, "but to be honest, it means little at the moment and I have to concentrate on other things. There is still a very long way to go, and being the leader changes nothing for me.

"I prefer to concentrate on my job and look at the testing and each race as it comes. Only after all the races will we see if we did everything right. Sure, it's good to be first and to come to the next race leading the series and having won the last race. It gives you a boost, but that only lasts until it's time to start practice again.

"I have had a particularly busy time at the moment, as immediately after Magny-Cours I headed for the Silverstone test. I drove the first two days and Kimi drove the last one. I am used to it now, but this event can be a real shock as there are more guests and fans in the paddock than there are during the race weekend.

"As for the test itself, I was quite happy with the car and the work we did. The balance of the F2008 was good and I felt comfortable in the car. We had some good results in terms of set-up and got through our whole programme.

"To be honest, I need to have some rest now. I had a problem with my neck in Magny-Cours and then picked up a cold bug and had to do two days of testing with some sort of influenza, and now I am completely tired. I need to relax and concentrate on the next race, but my neck is fine after some treatment and I am sure I will be fine."