Pre-season F1 2010 testing may not start in earnest until next week, but Ferrari star Felipe Massa was permitted a return to the cockpit at Barcelona on Friday (22 January) as he continues to prepare for his competitive comeback from an accident last summer that left him in a coma and at one stage almost threatened to claim his life.
Hot on the heels of record-breaking MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi's impressive latest try-out for the Scuderia
around the same track – during which the Yamaha ace confessed that beforehand he 'would have given anything for such a lap time' in what was still only his sixth-ever test in an F1 car [see separate story – click here
] – Massa took to the Circuit de Catalunya in a year-old F2008 fitted with low-grip demonstration tyres to circumvent the sport's stringent testing ban, going on to successfully complete some 90 trouble-free laps in changeable weather conditions, equivalent to more than a full grand prix distance.
Whilst the Brazilian had previously driven a 2007-spec Ferrari at the team's Fiorano and Mugello test bases in Italy last year as part of his rehabilitation from the fractured skull and head and eye injuries he suffered during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in late July, this latest outing was aimed at boosting his confidence ahead of next week's launch of the 2010 machine, which is due to hit the test track at Valencia on 1 February, with the Paulista at the wheel. New team-mate and double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso is then scheduled to take over for the following two days.
“It was a perfect way to optimise my form here in Barcelona,” Massa remarked. “I'm really happy that I had this new opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 single-seater on a race track. I can't wait to sit in the new car and get stuck in!”
The 2008 F1 World Championship runner-up has revealed that after getting over the injuries he sustained when he was struck on the helmet just above his left eye by a rear suspension spring that had flown off the Brawn GP of compatriot Rubens Barrichello at the Hungaroring – knocking him briefly unconscious and sending him spearing off into the circuit barriers – he now feels stronger than ever ahead of the forthcoming 2010 campaign. With Alonso alongside him, some would argue that he needs to be.