Finishing ninth on the road in the opening round of a season where he knows he needs to perform was not the start to 2011 Felipe Massa was looking for, but the Brazilian is determined to bounce back in Malaysia.
Having made it into the further reaches of qualifying by the skin of his teeth 'down under', Massa started eighth and finished ninth in the Australian Grand Prix, before being promoted a couple of places due to Sauber's double exclusion. Even seventh, however, failed to live up to the Brazilian's expectations, particularly after enjoying some strong showings in pre-season testing.
Massa was quick to blame himself for some of the problems that hampered his progress in Melbourne, but insisted that he and the Ferrari team were working to get on top of the set-up woes in time for the Malaysian GP after being left trailing by the pace of race winner Sebastian Vettel.
"We understand many things," he admitted, "For sure, we didn't have the pace we expected in Australia and, last week and this week, we've been analysing the direction which we should start here. My hope is that we're going to have a different car, a more competitive car, in qualifying, where we saw a big difference compared to Red Bull, and in the race as well.
"It's also true that I was a little bit too aggressive on the set-up and my [tyre] degradation was a little bit higher than I expected, so that is also another point to think about for this track, where we see very high temperatures as well. We need to change the direction on set-up a little bit, just for the tyres.
"For sure, I'm confident that we can have a better weekend. The first race was not great for us, as we didn't have the result we expected, but I don't think it was just due to the tyres. I think we expected better speed, but I'm confident that we can get everything together here."
Although he has yet to win at Sepang, Massa has shown an affinity for the circuit in qualifying, and now hopes to find success in both sessions as Ferrari attempts to close the gap on Red Bull and, after being surprised in Australia, McLaren too.
"It's a track I enjoy, so I've twice started on pole [although] it's true that in the race the results have not been great compared to qualifying," the Brazilian reflected, "Last year, however, was the opposite - I was almost last in qualifying, on the grid, because it was raining [and] we went out at the wrong time, so we qualified in Q1. But I drove a very good race and finished seventh, so I hope this time qualifying and race together will be a little bit better. We must concentrate on doing a good job."
Having been out-paced by a KERS-less Red Bull in Australia, Massa was asked whether he feared an RB7 fitted with the technology, as may be the case this weekend, may mean the end of a competitive season.
"I think that's a little bit early to kill the championship, no?" he returned, "It's always difficult to speak about a different car. For sure, in our car, if you don't use KERS, you lose a little bit of lap time, so maybe it's the same for Red Bull. Maybe they will improve even more, but it's very difficult really to express how much they will improve or not because you don't have a clear picture of the Red Bull car. But, in my opinion, if you use KERS, it can be better.
"For sure, in qualifying, you always try to use the KERS in the places where you gain
the most time. In the race, it's a little bit different because, if you are fighting with somebody else, you try to use the KERS in places where it's easier to lose
position. So you are always changing the places where you use the KERS, even looking at how close another car is to you and, if you are behind, you try to use KERS in places where you have more chances to overtake, so for sure in the race you change many times."