Massa savours return to pole

Felipe Massa, centre, secured his first pole since 2008 (AP)

Felipe Massa, centre, secured his first pole since 2008 (AP)

First published in National Sport News © by

Felipe Massa proved fairytales do still happen as a driver who almost lost his life five years ago was back on pole position for the first time since 2008.

Ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, it proved to be a highly-emotional moment for Massa, and understandably so as it was the first time his four-and-a-half-year-old son Felipinho had watched his dad take top spot on the grid.

Felipinho was born six months after Massa suffered his horrific crash in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009 when he sustained a fractured skull after being struck on the helmet by a spring that had worked loose off the car of fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.

Massa required life-saving surgery and a titanium plate inserted into his skull, and although he returned to Formula One in 2010 there was always the feeling he has never been the same driver since.

A move from Ferrari to Williams this year, however, has reinvigorated Massa, with the Grove-based marque showing signs of improvement of late, but failing to get the results the car's performance deserved.

So on F1's return to Austria after an 11-year absence, Massa took full advantage of a double dose of mistake misery from Lewis Hamilton to spearhead a Williams front-row lockout, the team's first since the 2003 German Grand Prix.

"I'm so happy with what's happened with us, our team. It was such a great moment," said Massa, whose 15 previous poles were with Ferrari.

"It's been a long time since my last pole position, which was in Brazil 2008, so such an incredible moment.

"The best place to be is here in first, something I had the chance of many times throughout my career, and here I am again now.

"After a long time not being in this place I hope this is the start of some great possibilities to be here again.

"I'm so happy, very emotional, and I'm sure Williams feel similar.

"They've had an incredible career in the past, and now they are back to the top, back in the fight.

"There is still a lot to do, but the work is heading in the right direction."

After Massa clambered from his car he first hugged and kissed wife Raffaela and Felipinho, and then just as he was about to turn away, he gave his son one more kiss.

"I've always been very close to my family," added Massa.

"When I was a kid with my father and mother, brother and sister, always together, and now with my wife and son.

"This is a great moment because he has never seen me in first place. This is the first time.

"It always makes a father feel nice, a good feeling, that your son is looking at you in first place.

"For sure he is part of my motivation, part of everything I'm doing in my career.

"I hope I can now have a great race with him watching, my wife, and all family as well from home."

Massa, however, is naturally wary of the threat from Mercedes who had claimed the previous seven poles, with front-row lockouts at the last three races.

Hamilton, however, when on course to comfortably claim pole, made an error on entry to the turn eight right-hander and was forced to take to the run-off area.

On his second hot lap, and again fastest in the first sector, the 29-year-old spun on the approach to turn two.

The knock-on effect resulted in team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg slowing, leaving the German third on the grid behind Massa and second Williams of Valtteri Bottas, the highest grid slot of the Finn's F1 career.

"We can't forget what Mercedes have done. For the moment they are stronger, but I hope during the championship we can close on them," added Massa.

"For now we can't say we are there with Mercedes, although maybe at the moment this track helps us.

"But we will see a very strong Mercedes in the race, so we need to be ready for everything. If we finish right behind them it will still be an incredible job from us."

Hamilton now concedes to facing a "damage-limitation" exercise in starting from ninth after failing to set a time.

"They were just two not very good laps - or one-and-a-quarter-laps as I didn't finish my second one," said Hamilton.

"The feeling was there in the car, it has been good all weekend.

"To be honest my first lap was looking good, but I went wide into the second to last corner. I think that lap would have done it (claimed pole).

"I've swallowed that (pill) many times. It's easier the more and more you do it.

"We're going to be strong tomorrow, but it's going to be very, very hard from where we are. Of course I'll do everything I can to try and get some good points for the team."

Jenson Button will start 11th in his McLaren, with Marussia's Max Chilton qualifying 21st, albeit dropping to the back due to a three-place grid penalty.

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