Felipe Massa has predicted that the Scuderia will face 'stiff competition' in Bahrain this weekend, the opening round in the F1 2010 season.

Massa finished fourth in the opening practice session on Friday, his best time a 1m 57.055s, and while he slipped to seventh in the second session on a 1m 56.555s, he remained upbeat. Indeed it is a special weekend for the Brazilian as it marks his first time back competing in F1 since his horrific accident last year in Hungary.

"We worked a lot on finding the right balance on the car in race trim and on comparing the two types of tyre, running with various fuel levels, although never going for a quick time. I am quite happy with what we have seen today, even if it is difficult to get an accurate picture of how competitive we are compared to the others," he said.

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"We will definitely face stiff competition from many teams, but we were preparing as well as possible for Sunday's race and tomorrow morning, we will work on qualifying. I've got a bit of a temperature today, but I feel 100 per cent for this start to the season."

Massa's team-mate Fernando Alonso was quicker in the sister car in FP1 and finished proceedings in second on a 1m 56.766s. However the Spaniard was unable to improve in FP2 and slipped to ninth on a 1m 57.140s.

"A slightly different Friday to usual for me, as it was the first one with my new team," Alonso reflected. "We concentrated mainly on comparing the two types of tyre, so as to be as well prepared as possible for the race on Sunday, trying to get a car that performs consistently over a long run. Obviously, with such high temperatures, tyre degradation was more rapid, especially with the rears.

"From what we could see, the indications we got from testing have been confirmed, with four teams that you could describe as favourites, although there could yet be a few surprises, Force India for example."

Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali meanwhile insisted that the Scuderia were satisfied, even if they were only seventh and tenth on the combined times: "We had set ourselves an agenda based on preparation for Sunday's race and we are pleased with what we have seen so far," Domenicali confirmed.

"Even more so than in the past, it is difficult to get an idea of the pecking order on Friday, because the fuel levels of the cars during these three hours of running can vary quite considerably.

"Now, we must try and prepare as well as possible for tomorrow's qualifying, which will be difficult and closely contested for a variety of reasons, without losing sight of the fact that the points are only handed out on Sunday afternoon," he concluded.