I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that it’s great news to see the positive recovery Felipe Massa has been making from his freak accident at last weekend’s Hungarian grand prix.
At times like this, it’s easy to pull out all the old clichés such as “what a nice bloke he is”, but I think in Massa’s case, statements like these are very apt. No-one deserves something like what happened to Massa, least of all Felipe himself.
In Massa’s early days in Formula One – and maybe even as recently as early last year – many people considered the Brazilian to be a fast yet flawed driver, once famously sacked by Sauber in 2002 after an error ridden first season in the sport.
The making of Massa was probably in 2003 where he spent a season as a Ferrari test driver and was taken under the wing of the all conquering Michael Schumacher. When Rubens Barrichello left Ferrari at the end of 2005, Massa was Schumi’s preferred choice and he took his first win in 2006 in Turkey.
Where we really learnt about Massa’s ability as a driver and a sportsman was seen after he had lost the world championship to Lewis Hamilton by a single point last year in Brazil amid chaotic scenes.
My real memory from that day was not Hamilton winning, but the beaten Massa stood in tears on the podium. Here was a man who took defeat in the best possible spirit, refusing to blame his team, when it was their fault he had lost the title in the first place.
Had his engine not let go in the closing stages of Hungary 2008 when cruising home, or had Ferrari been able to realise in Singapore that it perhaps wasn’t safe to let a car leave its pit stop with a fuel hose still attached, then Massa would have comfortably beaten Hamilton.
Instead, he took defeat gracefully and refused to blame those around him, quite an admirable thing when you look at his peers this season.
Hamilton, Barrichello, Nelson Piquet and even Jenson Button have all at various stages of this season seemed to blame everyone but themselves for their poor performances. Barrichello has undoubtedly been the worst offender with his Germany outburst. Could you really see Massa doing the same thing?
It’s good to see Michael Schumacher back as well, as now all the news is likely to surround him and Massa can get on with his recovery away from the public glare.So here’s to you, Felipe. You are the ultimate professional, the perfect team player and one of the better sportsmen the sport has ever seen. I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing him all the best with his recovery and fingers crossed we’ll see him on the grid in Melbourne next year.