Ferrari star Felipe Massa has vowed to disprove his critics by coming back fighting in 2011, urging his detractors that they would be unwise to write him off on the basis of a comparatively lacklustre campaign in F1 2010 – one that, he contends, has had very specific causes.
The bare statistics this year for Massa do not make for encouraging reading – no victories and only five podium finishes in one of the top three cars on the grid. With the same equipment, Fernando Alonso has triumphed five times – albeit one of which should have been the Brazilian's – and mounted the rostrum on five further occasions, and whilst the Spaniard stands poised on the verge of F1 title glory for a third time in Abu Dhabi this weekend, his team-mate dropped out of the chase for the crown some races ago and will finish no better than a distant sixth.
The qualifying statistics between the pair are equally unflattering for Massa, who trails Alonso 14-4 in the Saturday afternoon stakes – and since the now infamous Hockenheim team orders episode from during the summer, the Paulista's reputation within the paddock is arguably that of someone who will subserviently roll over and cede to his team-mate whenever requested.
Incidents such as that in Germany and the unceremonious Shanghai pit-lane barge from Alonso – over which he made little public protest, instead meekly towing the party line of unity – have led to Massa being labelled a 'number two' driver, a tag some fear he will never now be able to shake off. The 2008 world championship runner-up disagrees.
“I know what I'm able to do and I know I can again fight for the championship and for victories, which I have done many times,” the 29-year-old is quoted as having said by AFP
, dismissing notions that he will once more be cast into a mere supporting role to Alonso's challenge in 2011, with some even surmising that his seat at the Scuderia
may still not be entirely safe for next season.
“For sure you always hear stuff from the media, because they just look at what's happening now,” he argued. “They never remember the past and they don't see anything about the future. They just look at what has happened race-by-race. I don't care about that so much – I care about what I am and what I am able to do. I'm sure if I fix the big problem I have had this year, I will be back in the fight, and that's what I'm looking for.”
The 'big problem' to which Massa alludes has been the new Bridgestone Potenza tyres introduced in 2010 – but with Pirelli entering the fray to replace its Japanese rival in 2011, the man who almost died in a horrific accident during qualifying at the Hungaroring last year is confident that he will be able to rebound and reproduce the kind of form he displayed back in 2008, when he harried McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton literally all the way to the final chequered flag in dogged pursuit of the drivers' trophy.
“It was a big, big change from last year's tyres to this year's tyres and that was the worst thing for me,” the eleven-time grand prix-winner explained. “I'm sure it will be another big change when we try the Pirellis, and I hope that can pull it back to the other side.
“For sure the tyres are a very important key to the car, especially when you have tyres which work in a different direction to what you expect and what you have always had. The most important thing this year was to have the right temperature on the first lap in qualifying, and that's something that is a big point in the fight. If you cannot do what you are able to in qualifying, you know that you are not going to start first.”