BUDAPEST // Felipe Massa yesterday denied that he was Ferrari's No 2 driver and said he was out to win in Hungary this weekend. The Brazilian was at the centre of a row over so-called "team orders" at last Sunday's German Grand Prix when he moved over to let Fernando Alonso, his teammate, win after receiving a radio message from Rob Smedley, his engineer, while leading the race.
"Yes, I will fight for the victory here, whatever the conditions," Massa told a news conference on his return to the Hungaroring circuit where last year he suffered life-threatening head injuries. Asked if he would react differently if he found himself in the same position as last weekend, he replied: "I will win. "The time I say that I am a No 2 driver, I will not race any more." Alonso is fifth overall in the world championship standings, 34 points behind McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, while Massa is eighth and a further 38 back, with his hopes of the championship looking very remote. Massa said what had happened at Hockenheim made him even stronger as a person and he bristled at a suggestion from a Brazilian reporter that he had betrayed his country by obeying the orders.
"I will do everything I can, always, for my country," he said. "For me, my country is the most important thing. I have proved already many times in my life...what I am able to do for my country." Massa said he had spoken to everyone within the Ferrari team about the situation post-Hockenheim. "I want the best for the team," he said. "I am not here really just to race. I am here to win. "That's really my point. As long as I am in the condition to win, we need to go to the end, to fight for the victory."
His compatriot Rubens Barrichello, who was sitting alongside, commiserated with Massa for what he had been through. "I was very sorry to see that he had to go through such a bad thing," said the veteran, who endured regular team orders when he was seven-time champion Michael Schumacher's partner at the Italian team. "Nobody should have to go through those feelings," added the Brazilian, now driving for Williams-Toyota, who had to hand over a win to Schumacher at the infamous 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, which led to team orders being banned by the governing body.
"Felipe is a friend and I wish he didn't go through that." Barrichello said he had spoken to Massa about the situation at Ferrari but would not say what his advice had been. Schumacher revealed that he had also spoken to Massa, who was a teammate at Ferrari in 2006. "He is experienced enough not to need advice from me," said the Mercedes GP driver. "But I definitely had a little conversation with him, which was naturally of a private nature."
Massa has been with the Ferrari team for five seasons, and was also a test driver for them in 2003. He has won 11 times in his career and claimed 15 pole positions, but he has not triumphed since the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008. * Reuters