Budapest: Ferrari's Felipe Massa has much to be thankful for on his return to Hungary this weekend, even if his Formula One title hopes and reputation have taken a heavy hit.
The Brazilian has fully recovered physically from the life-threatening head injuries he suffered a year ago at the Hungaroring, and intends to thank personally all those who came to his assistance after that crash in qualifying.
"My first meeting when I arrive at the Hungaroring circuit will be with all the marshals and medical staff who did such a very good job of carefully getting me out of the cockpit," he told the Ferrari website (www.ferrari.com).
"I want to thank these people, with whom I now feel a special bond."
While the body has healed, the last grand prix in Germany dealt Massa a psychological setback that may be harder to overcome.
He now has to face up to being seen as Ferrari's de facto number two, just as compatriot Rubens Barrichello was to Michael Schumacher, after moving over to let team mate Fernando Alonso win Sunday's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
The furore over Ferrari's apparent use of banned 'team orders' left Massa -- championship runner-up by a single point in 2008 -- open to criticism for making the move too blatant as well as for being so obliging.
"People will see him now as a `yes man' who bends to the will of the company," former McLaren and Red Bull racer David Coulthard, who himself fell foul of similar orders in his career, said this week.
"Maybe they are right. Team player or stooge? The line is thin."
Even without his team mate's assistance, Alonso will fancy his chances again at the circuit where he took his first grand prix win with Renault in 2003 and started on pole last year.
Massa, by contrast, has never had much luck at the Hungaroring even if he enjoys it there. In 2008 he was heading for a comfortable victory when his engine failed with a handful of laps remaining.
"Winning is a great feeling and that was the case in Hockenheim," said Alonso, without making any mention of the controversial circumstances.
"The win does not change my approach to the rest of the season," added the double world champion, who is now 34 points behind McLaren's overall leader Lewis Hamilton.
"We knew full before Hockenheim that our car was much more competitive and that was what made me so confident. Now we must continue in this direction, starting this weekend in Budapest."
Red Bull and McLaren, with all their drivers in the championship chase, will also be fighting for victory in the 12th of 19 races and last before the three week break.
Hamilton has twice won in Hungary while world champion team mate Jenson Button took his first Formula One victory there with Honda in 2006.
"The car's pretty good when you put downforce on it," Button told Reuters after finishing fifth at Hockenheim, leaving him second overall and 14 points behind Hamilton. "In Hungary the car should be more competitive... but I don't know how competitive.
"I really enjoy the circuit and it's one that should suit this car pretty well."
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