Felipe Massa says that he is approaching this weekend's European Grand Prix in a positive frame of mind, buoyed not only by his recent upturn in form, but also by his winning record at the Valencia street circuit.
The Brazilian was the first driver to triumph at the quirky harbourside venue, winning from pole as he ramped up his championship challenge to Lewis Hamilton in 2008, and sees no reason why he cannot be back at the front of the field, at a circuit he enjoys, this weekend. Since failing to score in the opening three rounds of the year, Massa has added points in three of the following four, and could have had better results than he eventually attained had it not been for luck.
“I like the [Valencia] track and, even if people say it's a street circuit, it's not, because the major part of it is more like a permanent circuit, quite wide and not too tight," he reflected, "It always puts you in a positive frame of mind coming to a place where you have won before, so I hope we can have another good weekend this time, especially given the fact our car is now more competitive in the races - and also in qualifying, because we know how important your Saturday afternoon performance can be for the Sunday.
"You can overtake at Valencia, especially with the DRS, but starting from the front, being able to run at your own pace immediately right from the beginning, changes everything. It means you don't get stuck behind cars that are quick in qualifying but slower in the race, which can carry a high price. This year, the tyres are much softer than last year but, anyway, this year's car struggles much less than in the past when it comes to bringing tyres up to temperature quickly. So, running the medium and soft this weekend, should be fine for us.
"I'm much happier, because I can drive the F2012 much more in the way I like now. This means I am much more pleased with my driving, and with the balance of the car and the pace I can run at. When that happens, of course, you feel good and, for sure, all the modifications and updates introduced on the car helped in this process, but also important was the way we worked on the set-up with my engineers. We changed many things in terms of the balance and found a good direction that suits me.”
Asked whether he is following the lead of team-mate Fernando Alonso or has now gone down his own route in terms of set-up, Massa insisted that it was probably impossible to work exactly the same way as anyone else on the grid.
“Not totally, but certainly we are working in a different way,” he revealed, “Every driver has his own style, the way he turns the steering wheel, or uses the throttle pedal and, if you don't feel comfortable with something, then it definitely doesn't help. You know how it is with F1 and, in fact, not just F1 but all sports at the top level - it involves working on the very small details. When something is not working for you, you move away from the right direction and lose performance, as you are not operating at 100 per cent yourself.”
While the F2012 has improved considerably since the start of the season, no-one at Maranello is prepared to sit back and see how it goes. Chief designer Nikolas Tombazis has already revealed that there are ongoing revisions in the pipeline, and Massa acknowledges that there are still areas of weakness, despite being pleased with the current rate of development.
“For sure, we have many new parts compared to the beginning of the season, when we were far from how happy with our development," the Brazilian commented, "In the last three races, things have started to move much more in the right direction, with the right level of development producing a good level of performance. We have seen that in Barcelona, Monaco and Canada and, from now on, I know there are many more updates coming and I expect that improving trend to continue.
“If you look in Montreal, even if our top speed was not so good, neither was that of other top teams such as McLaren and Red Bull and even Mercedes. However, in Canada, we were still able to overtake cars in a conventional way - cars that, in the past, we had struggled to overtake with DRS! This shows the other teams have changed their approach and we have also improved our top speed as well.