Felipe Massa got off to a scintillating start in the Hungarian Grand Prix – but was doomed to suffer a heartbreaking failure in the closing stages that robbed him of victory.
Massa’s burst from third to first at turn one has to be the start of the year so far.
He went on to lead much of the race but with three laps to go he stopped on the start/finish straight with what looked like a blown engine.
Massa looked like a good candidate to pinch second off Heikki Kovalainen as the Finnish driver had to start on the dirty side of the track. And sure enough he was ahead of the McLaren within a few metres of the start.
But Massa had also gotten away from third position much better than Lewis Hamilton had from pole ,and lined him up for a pass at the first corner. As Hamilton moved to the dirty side of the track to defend Massa stuck to the racing lined, locked up his tyres, turned in early to pinch Hamilton to the apex, and snatched the position.
It was an exquisitely-judged pass of the kind Hamilton drew praise for early last year, and it gave Ferrari the inititiave in the race.
A dismal end
But Hamilton and Massa were both doomed not to win the race. Hamilton had fallen back with a puncture leaving Massa with an unchallenged lead late in the race.
Massa’s engine was on its second race – unlike Raikkonen’s – and it came within three laps of reaching the end of its life. But on lap 67 it gave up in cloud of smoke.
Mechnical failures have become increasingly rare in Formula 1 at any stage of a Grand Prix, and it’s been many years since we saw a race leader drop out with a car failure so close to the end of a race.
None of which will be any consolation to Massa – who would be leading the championship now had his engine not failed.
Ferrari’s reliability remains questionable compared to rivals McLaren. They had engine problems with both cars in the first race, and Raikkonen suffered a broken exhaust in France that cost him a win.