Felipe Massa is adamant that he can 'definitely' still challenge for the F1 2010 drivers' trophy, despite currently trailing world championship leader Lewis Hamilton by some 42 points and seemingly sinking increasingly into a 'number two' role to team-mate Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.
After the Malaysian Grand Prix in April, Massa led the chase for the coveted crown – but having not reached the podium at all since then, and with his form in general having slumped somewhat, the Brazilian now sits a lowly eighth, behind Renault's Robert Kubica, who unlike him was not a man tipped as a potential contender for glory this year.
Not only that, but the 2008 F1 World Championship runner-up has been out-qualified five times to three by Alonso and out-raced by the Spaniard more often than not, but with a new Ferrari contract now in his pocket until the end of 2012, 275 points still remaining up for grabs between now and season's end and a significant upgrade package for the Scuderia's
F10 for this weekend's European Grand Prix – including Red Bull Racing-style exhausts – he remains buoyant about his prospects for success.
“Until you see from a mathematical point-of-view that you don't have a chance anymore, the championship is definitely open,” underlined the driver who has scored in every race of the season bar Montreal, where he had run-ins with both Force India rival Vitantonio Liuzzi on the opening lap and with former team-mate Michael Schumacher later on, leaving him a lowly and frustrated 15th at the chequered flag. “We saw that in two races many things changed – so, many things can change quickly in another two races.”
Indeed, never has the battle between the three title protagonists – Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Red Bull – appeared more finely-poised than in the wake of the Canadian Grand Prix a week-and-a-half ago, and with the new points system meaning just a single good or bad result can dramatically affect the table, Massa insists he still has every much of a chance of lifting the laurels as any one of his adversaries.
“Valencia is a circuit close to Canada in terms of its layout and characteristics,” the 29-year-old went on. “I had very good lap times and a good, consistent car in the race in Montreal, so this is something to look forward to for Valencia. On top of that, we expect to have some more updates for the F10 to make it even more competitive with those ahead of us in the championship.
“Valencia has not produced very exciting races so far, but I enjoy the track, as the only time I have raced there, in 2008 – it was one of the races I missed last year after my accident – I won. It would be nice to think we could be in with a chance of doing the same again this time. With the unpredictable nature of this year's championship, anything can happen, and I am sure we can be in the fight for the top places come Sunday in Spain.”
Alonso, for his part, is palpably eager to return to winning ways himself for the first time since the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir back in March as he bids to wrest the advantage and the momentum away from McLaren pairing Hamilton and Jenson Button. The Oviedo native has yet to finish on the rostrum in front of his partisan home supporters in Valencia.
“I expect a very strong Ferrari again,” mused the 22-time grand prix-winner of his chances for the European Grand Prix. “The goal is to be on the podium on Sunday afternoon – and the dream is to win the race. I think there's a good atmosphere in the team, and I'm very optimistic.”