SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, August 26 – Lewis Hamilton returns to action at Spa on Sunday desperate to bury the misery of his last outing in Hungary where he lost the world championship lead to Mark Webber.Hamilton, refreshed after a four-week summer break, failed to finish at the Hungaroring when his McLaren developed gearbox trouble.
In contrast, Red Bull driver Webber sped to an impressive victory to take the championship lead from the Briton who had been in front since securing victory in Canada in June.
"Neither (teammate and reigning world champion) Jenson Button or I had a great race at Spa last year," said 2008 champion Hamilton.
"I didn’t see much of it from the cockpit, but I think Jenson was pushed into a spin from behind at Les Combes and the resulting accident took me out too. So it was weird to watch the whole race back in the garage.
"For this year, too, I head to Spa off the back of a disappointing non-finish in Hungary. We’ve investigated the causes, and think we’ve identified the reason and are confident that it shouldn’t happen again."
Meanwhile, Felipe Massa, his appetite undiminished by the furore surrounding Ferrari’s ‘fixed’ win in Germany in July, is keen to banish all bad memories with another long-awaited triumph for the Italian team here.
At Hockenheim, the Brazilian seemed to have victory in his sights when he was persuaded to concede the lead to team-mate Fernando Alonso – a move that sparked widespread controversy.
So, this time around, back at one of his favourite circuits, he wants to prove he has the talent and potential to be a race-winner again with a dominant and untarnished display of supremacy at the front of the field.
"The last time I raced here was in 2008 when I won, but it’s not just because I won that race that I love this track," he explained. "Everyone just loves to race here.
"I think all the drivers look forward to racing on this fabulous circuit. It is high-speed, requiring less down-force than at many of the other tracks and fortunately, in the last few races, we showed that we have returned to being very competitive, even better than we had expected."
Massa has scored two seconds and one third place this season on his return from a life-threatening accident in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, but he is without a win for nearly two years since claiming the 11th victory of his career in his home-town Brazilian race in Sao Paulo in 2008.
To many that would suggest he is under pressure, but as a Brazilian, and even more so as a Ferrari driver, he said he has had to live with that kind of pressure of expectation all the time.
"You know, for myself and for Ferrari, we have been in this sort of situation before and we know how to deal with the pressure — simply by concentrating on the job in hand," he said.
In their last outing in Hungary, Alonso was second and Massa fourth.
That confirmed that Ferrari are back as a strong team challenging at the front again after some topsy-turvy form and, with seven races remaining, they are motivated to push for glory.
"But it is very hard to predict what could happen, as the small differences between the top teams means that performance has been very much track-specific, in terms of who had the slight advantage over the rest," said Massa.
"So, as usual, I think we need to wait and see how free practice goes before knowing what to expect.
"Personally, I am feeling really motivated to get back in the cockpit because, even if I enjoyed the short holiday, I have to say I missed driving my race car — and I can’t think of a better place to start again than at Spa.
"Even if it rains, it is still a very enjoyable track to drive and actually it can be good fun in the wet. We just have to make sure we are ready to make the most of whatever the weekend throws at us."