Felipe Massa is now almost back to his best form, the Brazilian’s manager Rob Smedley insists.
31-year-old Massa’s form was so low earlier this season that some seasoned pundits were predicting Ferrari would have to oust him long before his contract expires at the end of the year. But, for the first time in 2012, Massa was back in the decisive ‘Q3′ qualifying segment in Monaco and Canada, and then last time out in Valencia Ferrari hailed his strong performance despite a tumultuous race.
“Right now, going into Silverstone, there is very little that Felipe is lacking for him to be back where he was (in the past) in terms of driving and confidence in the car,” Briton Smedley, who is famously close to the diminutive Brazilian, said. “In terms of his pace in these recent races and the way he was driving and his confidence, he is a different driver to the way he was at the start of the season,” Smedley added.
“So, we are missing very little, maybe a tiny one per cent to make it all start happening for us.”
More generally, Ferrari’s rate of progress this season has been little short of sensational after a nightmare start for the F2012, with Fernando Alonso now clearly leading the drivers’ points standings.
“I think our chances are good at Silverstone this weekend, even if it’s no secret we still need to develop and have a quicker car,” said Smedley.
Felipe Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley admits that Ferrari were at fault for the Brazilian’s pit lane disaster in Singapore.
Massa’s hopes of winning the historic Marina bay race were dashed when Ferrari’s controversial pit-release system gave him the green light to leave his pit box before the refuelling hose had been detached.
The Ferrari driver carried the hose down the pitlane, much to the delight of the McLaren crew, before stopping at the pit exit and waiting for it to be detached by his mechanics.
“When he came in, we had a problem with the fuel rig,” Smedley explained to German broadcaster Premiere. “He saw the green light and he correctly left the pit box, but it shouldn’t have been a green light, so it was a failure of the team and not of him.”
“Unfortunately, it’s just one of them things, everything always happens at the worst possible time, that’s why you’ve just got to be 100 percent waterproof with all your reliability and today we weren’t.”
“Today we were useless,” he added.
The incident was almost identical to Ferrari’s pit lane faux-pas in Valencia, only this time the stewards were less sympathetic and docked Massa with a drive through penalty on the grounds that it had been an “unsafe” release.
Game over. The Brazilian was dropped to the rear of the field and a spin at Turn 18 with ten laps to go sealed his fate.
“It was a very difficult race,” added Smedley. “As we predicted yesterday, it was going to be very difficult, the inaugural Grand Prix at a new circuit, a street circuit. And for us it was more than difficult, it was a nightmare!”
“We had a safety car in exactly the wrong point, but Lewis had it as well, we predicted correctly that he was coming in on the same lap as us, so I mean it shows our pace yesterday in the race, and it shows how fast we were able to pull away from him, so we were a lot quicker here with Felipe.”
Massa was philosophical about the incident: “It s hard to deal with losing in this fashion a race that was within our grasp, with a car that was just the way I wanted it.”
“We had a good strategy and all the signs were there that we could get a one-two finish. “But things can change in a moment and that s what happened today. At the pit stop, one of the guys made a mistake. But we are only human.”
“Each one of us always tries to do our best and these things can happen. With the Safety Car still on track, I didn t lose a lap, but then I got a drive-through and later I also picked up a puncture in the left rear.”
Ferrari’s pitlane debacle also dashed Raikkonen’s Singaporean hopes. The Finn had been forced to queue behind Massa in the pits and bore the brunt of Ferrari’s bungle as much as the Brazilian himself.
Unlike Massa though, Raikkonen recovered to fifth and was sitting pretty when the safety car re-remerged in the closing stages. That was until he dropped his Ferrari into the wall with only four laps remaining.
“I was trying to attack Glock in case he might make a mistake, but I went slightly wide at the chicane, jumping over the kerb and when the car landed, I lost control and ended up in the barriers,” explained the Finn.
“My situation in the championship was already rather compromised, so this doesn t really make that much difference but I am unhappy because the team has lost precious points in the Constructors classification.”
Zero points for Ferrari and advantage McLaren in the constructors’ championship for the first time this season.
“A black day, there s little else to say,” said Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali. “We had the potential to finish first and second but we didn t even pick up a point.”
“We are very disappointed but that doesn t mean we are downtrodden. We have always shown our ability to react, especially at the most difficult times and we will do it again this time.”
“The situation in the two championships has become more complicated but there are still three races to go and a lot of points up for grabs.”