Felipe Massa has asserted that it would be 'wrong' to make out that team-mate Fernando Alonso's first victory of the season for Ferrari in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone earlier this month was purely down to the short-lived change in F1's exhaust regulations – and he vows that the team will prove it at the Nürburgring this weekend.
The row over off-throttle blown-exhausts that at one stage threatened to entirely overshadow the Silverstone weekend appeared to benefit Ferrari more than most – and certainly more than its front-running F1 2011 rivals.
McLaren-Mercedes managing director Jonathan Neale has opined that the Woking-based outfit lost in the region of half-a-second-a-lap to its scarlet adversaries [see separate story – click here
] – but Massa is adamant that the Scuderia's
upturn in performance and British Grand Prix success was not
the product predominantly of questionable rule changes.
“Looking back, my result was not the best, but I came away from England feeling very encouraged by the performance of the F150º Italia over the course of the weekend,” the Brazilian reflected. “The race itself could have gone better, but as I explained before, from quite early on – around lap 20 or so – my car picked up a piece of debris in the floor, which affected my level of downforce and reduced my pace. That in-turn meant I was using the tyres more than I should [have been], which impacted on the final result.
“However, in general, our pace at Silverstone was much better than we had expected at the circuit, and that is down to an excellent job from the team and those working back in the factory. Okay, as from now the rules regarding the off-throttle diffuser go back to where they were, but the suggestion that our improved performance at the last race came from the rule change is wrong.
“When the engine-mapping was changed, I would say we were losing maybe around four tenths of a second, depending on the track. This lack of downforce should theoretically make it more difficult to get the tyres to work, especially the hard compound, but even in this configuration, Silverstone was the first time we were able to make the hard tyres work very well. As an example, just look at the first part of qualifying where I was third-quickest, just a tenth of a second behind the fastest man, using the hard tyre.
“This means that our performance level was down to all the new components and updates we brought to Silverstone, and was not connected to the rule change – so now I expect we can continue to move forward like this in the second half of the season.”
That will begin with this weekend's German Grand Prix, but in the intervening period since Silverstone, the 2008 F1 World Championship runner-up has spent some time at home in Monaco and also at Ferrari's headquarters in Maranello, 'with a busy schedule both on the technical front and with promotional work'.
That dual focus involved simulator work, meetings with engineers and driving the Prancing Horse's three-seater F1 car, an experience that he describes as 'entertaining' and 'great fun'. His passengers included his wife – who consequently 'has a rather stiff neck', he quips – chassis director Pat Fry and his own race engineer Rob Smedley, who 'was very quiet, very nervous and shaking when he got out of the car'... Now, however, Massa's attentions are turned fully towards the business at-hand.