FELIPE MASSA yesterday realised one dream, but it will mean nothing unless he becomes world champion at the end of the season.
For the first time in his six-season, 95-race career, Massa leads the Formula One world championship following his victory in the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.
A broken exhaust pipe on the Ferrari of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen aided his cause, and for the first time since Ayrton Senna in May 1993, a Brazilian sits on top of the drivers’ standings.
Massa now has a two-point cushion over BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica, and five to Raikkonen who held on for second place at the Circuit de Nevers, whilst McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton is 10 adrift after he finished a troublesome race in 10th.
In a helter-skelter season, arguably more enthralling than last year, there have now been four different leaders of the championship at the end of the last four races. Appreciably, it is the man in possession of that lead come the end of the final race in Brazil that matters, and Massa is determined to be that man.
“It’s a great pleasure to lead, and hopefully we can stay in that position to the end,” said Massa.
“For the moment we’ve won nothing, just some races, and the championship is open 100%, with many races to go. We just need to keep doing our job race by race, thinking about the points, about winning, although second and third are good.
“We also need to think about the championship until the last race, and then we will know if we did the right job, had the right luck and did everything we could to win. Because my dream is not just to lead the championship, it is to win the championship. I am going to do the best I can to try and achieve that. That is my goal.”
Starting from what was Ferrari’s 200th pole of their illustrious history, Raikkonen made the ideal start and did not put a wheel out of place until the exhaust issue began to materialise around lap 30. On lap 39, Massa passed the world champion who admitted he was lucky to finish and avoid a third successive race without scoring a point.
“It’s disappointing in the end,” assessed Raikkonen. “I had a good car all weekend, was comfortably on pole, but then I had a problem with the car. In a way I was still lucky to finish the race because in the last couple of laps the car almost stopped.”
Canadian race winner Kubica could only manage fifth behind Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen in the second McLaren while the remaining points were claimed by Red Bull’s Mark Webber in sixth, Renault’s Nelson Piquet, in the top eight for the first time in his rookie season, and his team-mate Fernando Alonso.
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