Massa aiming to banish demons

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The Independent Online

Ferrari's Felipe Massa has encountered more difficulty coming to terms with his agonising championship loss in 2008 than his recovery from a life-threatening accident that curtailed last year's campaign.

The Brazilian, who suffered a serious head injury during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix last July, also had a painful experience a year before when he lost the Formula One world title to Lewis Hamilton by a single point.

As if losing the title on the final bend of the final race was not bad enough, the revelation that the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix was fixed compounds his misery as the result potentially cost Massa the crown.

"Physically I now feel better than I did before the accident," he told reporters at a pre-season ski retreat ahead of the season opener in Bahrain on March 14.

"The accident hasn't changed my life, hasn't changed the way I think or work."

Massa initially did not realise how serious his injury was.

"I was sure after the accident when I was in hospital in Hungary that I was in a position not to miss any races," he said. "I once almost fought with my wife because she said I wouldn't race in Valencia (four weeks after Hungary)."

Massa has moved on from the accident but if he wanted to forget Singapore 2008, two recent events have revived the memory.

Former Renault boss Flavio Briatore was found guilty by the FIA of ordering Nelson Piquet to crash, letting Fernando Alonso win and stopping Massa maybe gaining key points for the title.

This month, Briatore's life ban was overturned by a Paris court but Massa is still wondering if the 2008 standings could not have been amended after last year's expose of the affair.

"Honestly, if you see something that's not right in sport and done in a way which is against the rules, I don't think it would be difficult to change the result even if it would not be great for the sport," Massa said.

"But everybody knows what happened in 2008, we are not going to win anything looking back."

Another reminder of the scandal is Alonso becoming Massa's new Ferrari team mate. However, the Brazilian believes Alonso's statement that he knew nothing about the incident while a 2007 spat in Germany after a fractious race has been forgotten.

"We had a discussion in 2007 in Germany. Afterwards he said sorry and the thing passed. I have no problems with Fernando," Massa said, adding there was an immediate difference between the Spaniard and previous team mate Kimi Raikkonen.

"I've already spoken more with Fernando than I did in three years with Kimi," giggled Massa, who recently became a father.

Another former team mate, seven-times world champion Micheal Schumacher, has surprised pundits by coming out of retirement and leaving his Ferrari consultancy role to race for Mercedes.

"Michael was happier racing than he was when he quit. It's hard to say if he has done the right thing. He could be competitive immediately or it may take time for him to be where he was but it's interesting for the sport," Massa said.

"If I was in his place perhaps I would have gone in a similar direction. Sure it's quite strange to see him racing for another team but it's also true Ferrari already had two drivers.

"Of course Micheal is a friend, Away from races, the friendship will continue."