It is a credit to Felipe Massa’s fortitude that, despite the strong likelihood he would be off-loaded by Ferrari, he never lapsed in his loyalty to the Italian legends.
His season was collapsing so disastrously and mystifyingly, wickedly following on his 2011 ineptitude, the exit door appeared to be looming large for him.
Failure after abject failure blighted a reputation so painstakingly assembled since his promotion from Ferrari test driver to frontline, full-time competitor with the team, that his seven-year tie-up with the Maranello outfit looked doomed.
And there was widespread concern and sadness on his behalf among the majority of the Formula One personnel, such is the power of his utterly likeable and approachable personality.
His personal feelings were kept under wraps and covered with his usual ready smile and outgoing friendliness. But, truth be told, his sufferings born of doubt about his continuance with the Prancing Horse team, only further deepened by his partner Fernando Alonso’s magnificent season of flair and downright brilliance, were ever present, even if hidden from public gaze.
His run of flops, without even a podium finish in 2011, were inexplicable and it was not until the virtually dying moments of the greatest and closest Formula One season for many a year that the troubled Brazilian got his act together.
It is most likely that he was subconsciously still affected by his freak accident in Hungary three years ago, when his skull was fractured by a loosened spring from a car in front of him.
Whatever, he could not find the key to unlock his store of natural ability that had earned him 11 wins and the narrowest of defeats by wonderboy Lewis Hamilton for the 2008 world title.
But then, in Japan and Brazil, the last race, he at long last climbed the podium steps, the memory of places as embarrassingly low as 16th and 15th twice and pathetic qualifying shows were suddenly obliterated — and he even let Alonso pass him to grab second place to keep his title hopes alive.
Until now he maintained a dignified front as the rumour mongers and naysayers gloomily shook their heads and tut-tutted over his future. But, resting at home in Brazil, he has for the first time revealed the fears that haunted him and voiced his frank appraisal of his own dismal showing that he thought would cost him his job with Ferrari.
After scoring just two points in the first five races of 2012, he feared his position was under threat — even to being fired mid-season with a queue of brilliant hopefuls on other teams jostling to claim his seat.
“In the first half of the year I was worried about the renewal of my contract,” reveals the 32-year-old,” I did not think Ferrari would really wait right until the end of the season before deciding on their driver line-up for 2013.
“It is true that ever since I have been at Maranello there have always been rumours about me. Right from my first year there was a list of drivers who were supposed to take my place — and it was the same this year. A lot of speculation.
“At the start I paid too much attention to the rumours, but then in August I told myself I should only think about racing and having fun. So I really began to drive well and quickly with the right feeling for the car.”
The revitalised ace added: “The results were there in the last nine races and now I feel very strong and I am optimistic about the future — mine and Ferrari’s.”
— The writer is a motorsport expert based in England