Felipe Massa said he was surprised at the gap to Red Bull Red Bull Racing during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, despite admitting that he expected the championship leaders to be the team to beat at Suzuka.

Massa posted the fifth quickest time during the Friday sessions, although the Ferrari driver was more than a second off the pace set by Sebastian Vettel.

While surprised at that pace, Massa joined team-mate Fernando Alonso in admitting that the rain that is due to hit qualifying on Saturday meant anything could happen even though he doesn't expect his team to find more performance from its car.

"I thought Red Bull would be very strong and maybe they are even more so than I had expected," he said. "Having said that, it's likely we will have a wet qualifying tomorrow, so anything could happen: we must try and be ready to make the most of whatever situation presents itself. The aim is still the same, whether the track is dry or if it rains, which means to qualify as well as possible.

"The track is pretty hard on tyres because of the many high speed corners, therefore managing them properly will be important during the race. We will use the blown rear wing, as on this track it definitely brings an advantage in performance terms. There is still room to improve the handling of our car, but we can't really expect any sort of change in terms of performance."

Team principal Stefano Domenicali added that it was important for Ferrari to focus on the job at hand and not worry too much about what its rivals were doing.

"We were expecting Red Bull to be very strong and that has proved to be the case, while it is harder to evaluate the McLarens, epecially given what happened this morning with Hamilton," he said, referring to the Briton crashing in the first session. "We worked through our programme and now we have to analyse the data and prepare ourselves as well as possible for qualifying and the race.

"Tomorrow there is a very high chance of rain, therefore anything could happen. We will have to pay great attention to managing all the various situations that could arise. We must remain focussed on our own tasks, without worrying about what the others are doing."


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