Massa will bounce back, says Stewart

Massa FaceA bit of rest and recuperation on the beaches of Sau Paulo might go some way towards erasing the memories of his Hungarian nightmare, but rest assure that Felipe Massa’s summer break will not be completely devoid of the odd sleepless night.

Nor will it be the same holiday that awaited him moments before the chequered flag dropped on proceedings at the Hungaroring a fortnight ago, when he was on course to take command of the world championship, only for an engine failure to intervene with three laps to go.

As his Ferrari V8 buckled in the Budapest heat in full view of Formula One’s elite, not to mention the world’s onlookers you couldn’t help but sense that this was one of those moments that you find yourself re-visiting as the title race nears its climax.

“The make it happen moment of the race maybe even of the entire Driver’s Championship was Felipe Massa’s engine failure,” triple world champion and RBS Ambassador Jackie Stewart affirmed.

“He’d made a great start and run a good race, and he was three laps away from winning the race,” the Scot added on RBSsport.com

The image of the Brazilian youngster making the long walk back through the empty pit-lane head hung low, his usual bounce and energy in absentia confirmed the significance of the events.

This was a crushing blow on three counts. First there was the win itself, a might-have-been victory made even sweeter by the fact that this was unquestionably McLaren territory.

Then there was the mathematical anguish at not taking the initiative in the world championship, the message-of-intent that never was, and, ironically, a real-terms points deficit to team-mate Kimi Raikkonen on a day when the Finn was outclassed.

But perhaps most importantly of all, after his disastrous outing at Silverstone and his public shaming at Hockenheim when he let Lewis Hamilton passed without a fight, this was a critic-silencing performance from Massa.

McLaren insist that Lewis Hamilton had the legs to pass the Brazilian had it not been for his puncture, but the way Massa was driving you would have fancied his chances at the final round of pit-stops.

Unfortunately for the Ferrari ace, in Formula One results matter. Motorsport’s premier series can be a fickle sport at times, and the harsh reality is that the impact of his performance was not as great as it would have been, had he climbed on to the top step of the podium.

And so it was that the Massa left for Formula One’s three-week siesta with wounds to lick, while his immediate rivals escaped their misfortune unscathed.

But he will take heart from the fact that Ferrari seem to be a match for McLaren on race pace, and while Kimi Raikkonen will come to the fore again, Massa demonstrated that he is every bit as quick as the Finn, which should crush speculation that he is to be replaced for 2009.

“He’ll put it behind him,” says Stewart. “Every top racing driver has been disappointed by a mechanical failure and one time or another.”

“But you just have to take it philosophically. Massa will be a bit upset for a day or so, but he knows that an F1 car is a mechanical device with around 5,000 components, and failures are not unknown.”

“You just have to say, “That was not a good day.” There’s no point screaming and shouting. F1 is a team effort, and the mechanics will be disappointed too – particularly the engine guys.”