We have never seen a McLaren so far behind: Massa

March 24th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Rio de Janeiro, March 24 (DPA) Surprised over the poor pre-season performance of the McLaren-Mercedes team, but worried about the excellence of Brawn GP and the evolution of Toyota, Ferrari’s Brazilian Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa travelled to Australia Monday.
“So far it is difficult to have a clear idea, because it is the first race that counts, but I think we have never seen a McLaren so far behind, and with so many difficulties as this year,” Massa said.

As he evaluated his potential rivals for the season that is set to start Sunday at the Australian Grand Prix, Massa said he was impressed by the “resurrection” of Honda - now Brawn GP - in recent tests.

“We have seen a Brawn GP that re-emerged from ashes to be second fastest than everyone else, and a Toyota that grew from one moment to the next and improved its car a lot. They probably have a bit more than anyone else, be it in the technical aspect, in aerodynamics or somewhere else,” the second-placed driver of the 2008 season said.

According to Massa, the evolution of Brawn GP and Toyota forces Ferrari to fight to reach the top level.

“We have to discover where that difference is coming from and try to improve our car, or discover whether that difference comes from some area that is not yet so clear.”

However, he noted that he was “satisfied” with Ferrari’s pre- season performance.

“The car is competitive, it is fast, it is solid. We could race quite a bit and carry out some race simulations in which there was no problem with the car. I hope the small problems that came up have been solved. We are ready to start the championship and I hope we are as competitive as we have been in the past few years,” Massa said.

The Brazilian stressed that he feels “mentally stronger” this season, after the 2008 title slipped through his hands in the last lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the last race of the season.

“It was a great life lesson for me, a great lesson of personal learning which will probably make me stronger to fight for any championship, for any race or for any victory whenever I am on the track,” he said.

Massa, however, declined to guess whether defending champion Lewis Hamilton, with McLaren, or his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen will be his top rival this year.

“Neither one nor the other. Everyone is a rival. Of course my team-mate races with the same car as me and being ahead of him will show that I did the best I could with my car. But I am ready to fight with any rival, be it Kimi or Hamilton, or also (Fernando) Alonso and other drivers who can deliver a surprise this year,” he said.

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