He might now be in the lead of the F1 2010 World Championship, but Felipe Massa warned Ferrari that the Scuderia
has 'much room for improvement' in terms of both the performance and reliability of its F10, after coming away with just six points for seventh place in this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Not for the first time in Sepang, a tactical error and over-confidence during qualifying saw both Massa and team-mate Fernando Alonso exit the fray at the first opportunity in Q1, after finding themselves outsmarted by the elements. That left the Spaniard to begin Sunday's race from 19th and the Brazilian 21st, unaccustomed territory indeed.
Despite little progress early on – with the two scarlet machines making next-to-no impression on the midfield after coming upon the two Scuderia Toro Rossos of Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi – Massa found some form over the second half of the grand prix to home in on and pass reigning world champion Jenson Button in the McLaren-Mercedes for seventh place.
The six points that accompanied it were enough to lift the Paulista above Alonso into the lead of the title chase – but neither he nor Ferrari will succeed in staying there over the balance of the campaign, he cautions, unless considerable steps forward are made.
“All things considered, we did a good job in these first three races, as proved by the fact we lead both championships,” the 28-year-old reflected. “However, there are still 16 races to go and we know there is much room for improvement in terms of car performance and in making it totally reliable.
“Given where we started from, seventh place is probably the best we could hope for. We tried to delay the tyre change as much as possible, also because over the past days it has always rained in the afternoon and if that had happened today, we would have been able to exploit any opportunity. Unfortunately, for once the rain did not come. The soft tyres were quicker, but probably at the start the track was not rubbered-in enough to get them working at their best, so our strategy was the right one.
“The duel with Button was very complicated; down the straights he could always pull away, but when he made a mistake at the final corner, I was able to get close enough to overtake under braking for the first one. Today's race proves the need to fight on every lap of the championship; we have a lot of work to do, so we must keep focussed and not lessen our efforts.”