Felipe Massa says he still feels Ferrari can challenge for a place on the podium in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix next weekend, despite admitting that the team isn't satisfied with its performance during pre-season testing.
The team ended its pre-season programme at Catalunya last week admitted it wasn't happy with the performance of the F2012, with technical chief Pat Fry saying he wasn't optimistic of being in a position to challenge for a place in the top three at Albert Park.
However, Massa said he was heading to Melbourne with the thought of fighting for a podium being the 'only thought I have in my head' despite the troubles that Ferrari have faced thus far.
“It's true that every year we do less testing so it gets more difficult to understand how the situation stands between the various teams,” the Brazilian said. “Last year we went very well in the tests then we arrived in Melbourne and we found ourselves a second away from pole position. I won't hide the fact that we are not 100 percent satisfied with what we have done in these three test sessions in Spain and I would have preferred to be a bit quicker.
“We have a totally new car and we must still learn about it and get all its potential out of it. I have a very strong team and I have lots of faith in their capacity to be able to develop the chassis during the season. The truth is we will only discover the situation in Australia when we are all in the same conditions: little fuel in the tank and the softest tyres on the car.
“Certainly there are some teams that seem very strong like Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes and Lotus seems very quick to me. Then there's a group that has got closer and will fight within the space of a few tenths with Sauber, Toro Rosso and Force India. Still, I still believe that we can fight for the podium: it's the only thought I have in my head. But we only have to wait a few more days to have the answer.”
Massa added that he was going into the new season with the same approach as he has in previous campaigns, despite the consistent speculation regarding his future with the team.
“This year is no different to many that I have had in the past,” he said. “It will be at least the fifth time that I am starting a season without renewing my contract but that makes no difference to me. I am working with the aim of extending the relationship with Ferrari that has now lasted for so many years. This is my seventh year as an official driver but I won't give a second's thought to this while I'm in the car.”