Felipe Massa has defended his performances in F1 2011 to-date, arguing that whilst he has been roundly outpaced by Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso in the qualifying stakes, he has 'not exactly been slow' and is still 'exactly the same' driver as he was prior to his life-threatening accident midway through 2009.
Massa did not get the better of Alonso on a Saturday afternoon this season until the Hungarian Grand Prix just prior to the summer break – although he maintained that supremacy in qualifying for last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, too – but worse still, he has been routinely shown up by the two-time F1 World Champion come race day, and on seven of the nine occasions on which both drivers have taken the chequered flag, it has been the Spaniard ahead.
Massa entered the current campaign under pressure to perform off the back of a disappointing 2010, and with the strict instruction to raise his game or else see his seat at the Scuderia
come under threat. There remain no victories – none since the Interlagos finale of 2008, in fact, when the home hero so famously won the race but agonisingly lost the championship almost within the same breath – and there have not even been any podium finishes this year. Alonso, by contrast, has tallied six.
There are those who claim the Brazilian has never been the same since that fateful day at the Hungaroring two summers back – and others that his form has similarly been dimmed by the birth of his first child Felipinho several months later – but the man himself is adamant that 'nothing' has changed.
“Well, it's simple,” the 30-year-old told Spanish newspaper El Pais
. “Fernando has been far better than me in that area (qualifying) – but I am working to turn around the situation and, in any case, I have not exactly been slow.
“I am exactly the same [as in 2008]. It is true that I have not got the results since then, but I have the same ambition and determination. Both things (his Hungarian accident and fatherhood) give you a lot of experience, but none of it affects me when I get into the car. Then, you do not remember anything. In the car, I forget about my son, my wife, my father and mother. Michael [Schumacher] won many titles as a parent, so people talk about it too much – although it is true that these two years have been the most intense of my life.”
Going on to underline his conviction that he still has what it takes to triumph at the highest level – firing back that 'if I didn't think that, I would go home' – Massa added that even if his own chances of title glory this year are now dead-and-buried and Alonso's fast fading, it remains 'important to focus on the present', whilst naturally preparing to 'do better' in 2012.
“We are not expecting many changes in the regulations (between 2011 and 2012),” the Paulista reasoned, “so it is crucial to finish the season with a competitive car. Next year, the position of the exhaust changes, but not the [other] aerodynamics; the cars will be an evolution of these ones – so it's worth it to stay focussed.”