Felipe Massa has a record to maintain in Istanbul this weekend, having been undefeated in the battle for both pole position and race victory in the Turkish Grand Prix for the past three years in succession – and if he acknowledges that the current situation for Ferrari in 2009 is 'tough', he insists that he is 'not the type of guy who gives up easily'.
Massa has just eight points on the board thus far this season, as Ferrari has suffered its worst start to a campaign in the top flight in almost three decades – but the signs are that the Scuderia
may now finally be on the comeback trail, with an improved performance in Spain last month and Kimi Raikkonen and Massa taking the chequered flag a competitive third and fourth respectively in the Monaco Grand Prix last time out.
Whether that form can be sustained and built upon sufficiently for the Brazilian to have a fighting chance of upholding his Istanbul supremacy and joining multiple world champions Juan-Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in an exclusive club of drivers to have triumphed in the same race for four consecutive seasons remains to be seen – but fastest time in FP3 was an encouraging way to head into qualifying.
“For sure we showed a great improvement in the last race,” underlined the eleven-time grand prix-winner, “and in fact from two races ago in Barcelona we have made a big step. We still need to improve to fight for wins, and it would be fantastic if we have done enough to win here. If not, then we will all work hard to continue to improve the car.
“I don't think we can say yet that we are the second-best team in the field, because we have only been ahead of Red Bull in one race. We need to finish races in front of them and maybe even in front of Brawn. This race will be very competitive, another difficult race, with Brawn being very strong, while Red Bull is very good at this type of track, with high-speed corners.
“We have some new parts on our car, though, which could give us some extra performance, so I am hoping we can make another step forward and be in the fight for the win. The biggest changes since Melbourne have been first and foremost the new diffuser and then the general aerodynamic package of the car, as well as other details.
“I think it would be fantastic to win here for a fourth time in a row and I do think we have a chance; doing it three times has already been fantastic, so four would be a dream and very special, especially with all the problems we've had so far this season.
“I don't know what the secret is behind why I go well here. I feel very comfortable here, and at the few tracks where most of the corners go to the left I am always very competitive. Apart from here in Istanbul, I am always very competitive in Brazil, and in Singapore I took pole, six tenths of a second quicker than anyone else. Maybe my brain is strange and it works better in left-hand corners!”
Massa confessed that he has not found it easy to re-adapt to life in the F1 midfield after three years spent firmly at the sharp end of proceedings – “I learned it's much easier to control the race when you start from pole position than from the middle of the grid”, he joked – but if he concedes that the Maranello-based concern is facing an uphill struggle to get back on terms with current world championship pace-setters Brawn GP and even overhaul the ex-Honda outfit to retain its constructors' crown, then it will assuredly not, he stresses, be throwing in the towel.