Despite fending off the latest rumours about the strength of his position in the Ferrari
line-up, Felipe Massa
insisted that he was hopeful that an improvement in the Scuderia's current F1 machine would allow him to relive previous successes in the Turkish Grand Prix.
Doing his best to evade being asked his opinion on rumours that Nico Rosberg
could be headed to Maranello next season, the Brazilian spoke optimistically about Ferrari's chances of finally claiming a podium finish in 2011, after he and team-mate Fernando Alonso
struggled to break the Red Bull-McLaren hegemony that existed in Australia, Malaysia and China.
Although he out-raced Alonso on merit at Shanghai International Circuit, Massa was only able to claim sixth position, worse than his best finish of the season to date, fifth at Sepang, while Alonso managed fourth overall in the season-opener, but has only two points more than the Brazilian after three races. Ferrari, meanwhile, sits third in the constructors championship, but 55 points adrift of Red Bull
after accepting that it was 'too conservative' in the design of its F150 Italia.
"We have been working so hard, especially during this break, which was slightly longer than normal, to understand everything - and I hope we understand things a little bit more compared to the last race and compared to the first, second and third races," he admitted, "I hope we have an interesting step that we can feel in the car, especially in qualifying, as we were struggling so much in the first races.
"In the race, we always get a good pace compared to the qualifying, so I hope we get better in qualifying and we keep good pace in the race so we can fight with Red Bull, which was very strong. We'll see. Everybody is working very hard to improve their car, so it is always difficult to say how the new parts will be, but I hope we understand so many important things that makes the car stronger and we will see here."
Massa is the most successful driver in the short history of the Turkish Grand Prix, having claimed three wins and three poles in six races at Istanbul Park, but may be left praying that the rain that has dominated the build-up to the 2011 race continues throughout the weekend if he is to add to the tally.
"It depends on the rain," the Brazilian conceded, "It can be good, it can be bad, but it is always a little bit of a lottery. We will have to see how it is going to be this weekend.
"But it is true I have had great races here, winning three times in a row - and starting from pole position all three times - was a great feeling. I hope we can carry on in the same direction. The last two years were not great, but it is a circuit I enjoy. I like to drive here. I had great times here and I hope everything is going in a similar direction.
"Red Bull, especially in qualifying, are showing they have the quickest car. Sebastian [Vettel] has won many races already - his worst result was a second - and it is clear that we need to have a good result and a good step now and in Barcelona. We are really pushing to have that, and it is clear to see that we never give up, but the difference is quite big. We really need to have our feet on the ground and to work to improve the car."
Poor results, of course, do little to help Massa situation within the team, even if, as in China, he out-raced Alonso, and the pressure on his shoulders cannot be helped by persistent rumours of potential replacements at Maranello.
"Really, [I have] nothing to say," he sighed to the latest suggestion, "Since I came to Ferrari, I have been answering all of these things about me going away, so there's nothing to say really. We concentrate on doing the best we can with the car and to get all we want. It's just one more. It always seems to be at this time, more or less, during the season? It's the same as usual."