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Domenicali: Hungary was Massa's best race yet 05 Aug 2008

Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari Manager of F1 Operations.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary,  Friday, 1 August 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari walks back through the pits after retiring from the lead of the race in the closing laps.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 retires from the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 3 August 2008. © Sutton Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 2 August 2008

Despite leaving the Hungarian Grand Prix empty handed, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has been praised by his team for his performance during the race, and tipped to bounce back from his Budapest disappointment at the forthcoming European event.

Massa was on course to take a well-deserved win at the Hungaroring on Sunday, when an engine failure, three laps from the finish line, robbed him of the victory. The winner's trophy was eventually clinched by McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen.

"I have to say that we are very sad for Felipe because in my view he drove the best race of his career,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali to Ferrari’s official website. “It was fantastic the way that he attacked when he had to attack. He managed the race right up to the final laps, so we are very disappointed.”

Massa had qualified in third on Saturday, but an excellent start, planned in detail by the Italian team before the race, enabled the Brazilian to overtake both Kovalainen and polesitter Lewis Hamilton before Turn One.

"We tried to simulate the start in terms of lines because we knew that if we were in front we could set a good pace for the first stint of the race,” explained Domenicali. “We were building and informing Felipe of the gap behind him to Hamilton just to create our race, expecting him to pit in the region of our pit stop."

From then on Massa dominated proceeding, building up enough of an advantage to retain the lead after the first round of pit stops. And with Hamilton’s puncture subsequently ruining the British driver’s chances, the 27 year-old Brazilian looked set for victory before his engine failed on Lap 67. For the squad, the V8’s problems were completely unexpected.

“Unfortunately we had no warning, we just had the smoke in front of us, and it was very bad,” explained Domenicali. “Unfortunately there was no signal, no information, no warning on the telemetry.”

At the same time, Massa’s team mate Kimi Raikonnen was also struggling with some mechanical issues of his own and the Italian team urged Raikkonen to reduce his pace. The two issues, however, proved to be unrelated and the Finn eventually finished in third.

“No. They were completely different," said Domenicali. "We saw there was something on the mechanical side on the rear (of Raikkonen’s car) that was not properly working.”

With rivals McLaren earning 14 points from the Hungarian race, Ferrari have seen their championship lead over the British team dwindle from 19 points to 11. Massa, meanwhile, has slipped to third in the driver standings with 54 points, behind Raikkonen (57) and Hamilton (62). Domenicali, however, is certain that the Brazilian can bounce back.

“I think that he's very strong," he added. "If you are mentally able to manage this kind of race, after such a big disappointment, you have to take a step forward, because you get stronger. This is what we are all going to do together, because that's the way we are going to approach the next race in Valencia.”