Even as senior F1 figures were throwing new names into the ring as potential future occupants of his seat alongside Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa managed to focus on the sport's return to Europe and Ferrari's bid to close the gap on its rivals.

The Scuderia's struggle to keep pace with the likes of Lotus and Mercedes, let alone the likes of Red Bull and McLaren, has mirrored Massa's own battle to justify his place in the line-up alongside Alonso, who still seems able to pry better-than-expected results from the F2012 as he did with the 2011 car.

Although the Spaniard managed to top the times during the recent Mugello group test, Massa admitted that the results were inconclusive and work to develop the F2012 could not really be judged until the cars hit the track in Barcelona for the this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

"The key in terms of how much progress we have made will not just depend on the work we have done ourselves, but on how much the other teams have done," the Brazilian explained to journalists on the eve of the race weekend, "We are going to use here some of the parts we tried in Mugello, but not all of them - and we will also try some other updates tomorrow in free practice that we did not test in Mugello.

"Until we have evaluated everything, it is hard to know how much of an improvement we can expect in terms of lap time, but it would be nice to think we can gain half a second. We must continue working flat-out, trying to bring new parts that give us a greater step forward than the other teams. I hope we will be happier this Sunday than we have been at the last few races."

Massa only racked up his first points of the season with ninth place in Bahrain last time out, and already trails his team-mate, who took an unexpected victory in Malaysia, by 41. However, he is hoping that the return to Europe, however brief, can kick-start both his and the Scuderia's season.

"We only have two races in Europe, before heading off for Canada, but it does feel as though the championship will be getting more intense from now on," he said, "The three-week break since Bahrain was very important for us, for everyone at Ferrari to work hard on improving our car, [and] I hope we will therefore benefit from having a better car from now on, starting here in Spain."

Ferrari's 45-point haul leaves the Scuderia 47 behind second-placed McLaren and 56 adrift of Red Bull, both of whom have also won races in 2012. With Lotus and Mercedes also showing signs of becoming regular frontrunners - the Three-Pointed Star won in China with Nico Rosberg - Massa and Alonso find themselves in the midst of a five-way battle at the front of the field.

While the Circuit de Catalunya rarely produces exciting racing because of its familiarity to both teams and drivers, Massa is hopeful that Ferrari can exhibit that step forward that will put it into contention for the rest of the year.

"This is a nice track to race on, even if we all know it very well from having driven more kilometres here than anywhere else. But it is demanding track, where you need to have a good car if you want to perform well. And, apart from that, if a car is effective here, it usually means it will work well nearly everywhere."