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October 16, 2009

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Massa backtracks on Alonso

FELIPE Massa backtracked from his comments that future Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso knew Nelson Piquet Jr was going to crash on purpose at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix to help him win the race, something the Spanish driver has denied.

After telling Brazilian media on Wednesday that "without a doubt" Alonso knew of Renault's plan to have Piquet Jr crash, Massa issued a statement on Ferrari's Website saying that what he said was "the outcome of a hunch" and was not "based on any concrete evidence."

"The FIA World Council announced that there was no indication that Fernando may have been informed of what had happened and I respect this outcome," Massa said.

The Brazilian driver, who is out for the season as he recovers from a serious crash at the Hungarian GP in July, has long complained of the incident involving Piquet Jr in Singapore. He had said before that he believed Alonso was aware that his Renault teammate was going to crash to bring out the safety car and help him win the race.

Massa had said "there is no way" Alonso didn't know Piquet Jr was going to crash to benefit him, and that FIA should strip Alonso of the win.

Alonso and Piquet Jr were cleared after an FIA investigation, but Renault team principal Flavio Briatore received an indefinite ban and chief engineer Pat Symonds a five-year sanction for their role in the deliberate crash.

"Obviously I'm very disappointed about what transpired last year in Singapore," Massa said. "I have already said several times what I thought about it and now it's time to close that chapter and to look to the future."

Ferrari has signed two-time champion Alonso to a three-year deal beginning next season. He will replace Kimi Raikkonen.

"What is certain is that this episode will not mar in any way the relationship I'll have with Fernando when we will be teammates," Massa said, adding that he's fit to race again but won't compete in Sunday's Brazilian GP out of fear of another accident. "I could easily race at Interlagos and in the last race (in Abu Dhabi)," Massa told Globo TV. "It's not the right time to return because I need to be 100 percent in case I get into another accident. I need to be 100 percent to be able to recover. That's the biggest reason I'm not returning now."

Massa drove an F1 car for the first time this week in a private test with Ferrari and said it felt like "the accident never happened."

Massa's absence at his home race in Sao Paulo comes as a big disappointment to local fans, who last year saw him come agonizingly close to becoming the first Brazilian F1 champion since the late Ayrton Senna in 1991. Massa won the race, but Lewis Hamilton clinched the title by a single point by passing Timo Glock on the last turn of the last lap.

His sole duty in this year's race will be to wave the checkered flag to the winner, and he is hoping that driver will be fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, who is yet to win the Brazilian GP in his 17-year career. "I'll be cheering a lot for Rubinho," Massa said.

Barrichello trails Brawn GP teammate Jenson Button by 14 points.


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