Ferrari was gracious towards Felipe Massa for sacrificing himself for the greater interests of the team at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Brazilian served a five-place grid penalty after his team deliberately opened a seal on the gearbox of his Ferrari, breaching regulations, to ensure teammate Fernando Alonso gets promoted on the grid to the cleaner side of the track for the start.
Massa had qualified ahead of Alonso, who was originally slated to side on the tricky dirty side of the grid, for only the second time this season with the latter still in contention for the title.
“It was definitely a tough decision, but he took it with the same spirit he has always demonstrated, in that the interests of the team come before those of the individual,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali. “Not only did events show it was the right decision, but furthermore we had further confirmation, if it was ever needed, that Felipe is a team player, sincere and honest, who fully shares our values and for that, I want to thank him publicly.”
As a result, Alonso maximised his potential for the race launching from seventh to fourth at the first corner and achieving the objective of keeping the drivers’ championship alive to the season-finale.
“It was a team decision of which I am proud, especially as it proved to be the right one: I don’t think everyone in this environment can say the same thing,” Alonso said.
“Felipe was fantastic all weekend, quicker than me in all three qualifying sessions: we need him to be on this good form in Interlagos too... We need to be a united team if we want to win!” the Spaniard added.
Alonso featured on the podium, in third place, while Massa clawed back from 11th to finish fourth.
“For me, this result is a bit like a win, definitely the best race of my season: now I can say I’m happy to have started 11th!” Massa said. “This morning, when I was told I was dropping five places, I can’t say I was jumping for joy, but I accepted it to help the team and my teammate: I don’t think many drivers would have done the same, but I am an honest person and will always do my utmost for my team.
"Maybe I could have finished ahead of Fernando, but I’m well aware of the championship situation and I do what is right for Ferrari, as I’ve done throughout my career,” the Brazilian added.