Felipe Massa has acknowledged the importance of this week's Mugello group test to Ferrari, admitting that the team needs to make 'a significant leap forward' if it is to salvage anything from the 2012 F1 season.
With the Scuderia's first iteration of the F2012 failing to match up to the likes of McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus, it is hoping that a major upgrade being introduced both at Mugello and at next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix will help to close the gap, although Massa is quick to point out that the Tuscan circuit will also host the first raft of developments for most of the team present.
“It's obvious we need to make a good step forward as soon as possible if we want to be competitive,” the Brazilian conceded, “I am confident about the work we have done in these past few weeks, but we won't really know if we have reached our targets until we get to Barcelona.
“We can be sure the other teams have also worked a lot, so if we want to make progress, we will have had to make a significant leap forward in performance terms. It is a very long championship, but we need to make up ground in the next three to five races if want to achieve our goals and this is a key moment to improve our situation.”
Ironically, with team-mate Fernando Alonso set to conduct the bulk of the running at Mugello, Massa was left to work on more basic aspects of Ferrari's programme, focusing mainly on continuing to tune the car to the latest Pirelli rubber and the development of some aerodynamic components. Massa completed a total of 106 laps, posting a quickest time of 1min 22.257secs.
“Testing is always important for a driver, because you learn a lot of things to do with the handling of the car,” he admitted, “It's not enough to stay in the simulator which, as it's name implies, only simulates. For us, driving on the actual tarmac is essential.
“And that's why today is still useful, both for me and for the team, despite the fact the car was in almost identical trim to the one I drove in Bahrain. We worked mainly on the tyres, on studying their behaviour over short and long distances and also looked at a handful of aerodynamic components, as well as various different set-ups on the car. We got through almost the entire programme and tomorrow it will be down to Fernando to experiment with some of the new parts we have prepared for the start of the European season.”
With Mugello hosting the first in-season F1 group test since 2008, Wednesday also represented a return to the 'good old days' for Massa and Ferrari when, free of restrictions, they would rack up mile after mile at the Tuscan track. The Brazilian was blessed by the appearance of the test's first sun after day one was ruined by persistent rain, and he made the most of the eight hours of running on offer.
“I really enjoyed driving here at Mugello again as it is a sensational track,” Massa said at the end of the day, “It was here that I did my first race in Europe when I was a kid and also my first test in an F1 car, after which came many more with Ferrari. It's true this track is very different to the ones we usually race on, although there are similarities to some, such as Barcelona, before they had made the modification to the chicane in the third sector, or Silverstone.”