Despite the pressure on him to perform in order to keep his Ferrari seat, and notwithstanding the need to play back-up to his team leader, Felipe Massa remains defiant when asked whether he believes he is capable of beating Fernando Alonso.

The Brazilian remains at the centre of a 'will he, won't he' conundrum that Ferrari appears happy to spool out for as long as it suits [see separate story], but clearly hopes that he can produce the necessary results over the remaining eight races to keep his role as team-mate to the current points leader.

Without a podium finish since late 2010, Massa came closest to a share of the silverware this season at the British Grand Prix, where he took fourth place, and backed that up with fifth in last weekend's Belgian race, where Alonso was wiped out in a first corner shunt. However, he has just a fraction of his team-mate's points haul and remains under threat from any number of names being bandied about on the F1 grapevine.

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"For sure, I expect to be in a different position in the championship to what I am, but I'm just concentrated on my job, which is driving the car, driving the quickest speed that I can," he told journalists ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, "I am frustrated with my qualifying, not with my races, and I'm sure that, if I can improve the qualifying, I can be very strong in the races and completely change the results.

"As I've said, I didn't sign anything for next year yet, but I think we have the possibility to sign and let's wait and see. I don't know when, but I just need to concentrate on the results of the races. I think that's the main important thing for my future as well."

Asked whether he thought he still had the potential to get the better of Alonso, Massa answered with an unequivocal 'yes', admitting that that effort wasn't just going to come at Monza, but that he was 'trying everywhere'.

"[I was] very pleased with the performance in the race [at Spa]," he claimed, "I think our car was more competitive in the race than in qualifying. In qualifying, we were struggling a lot, especially in sector two. In the race, the car was better, the car was a little bit stronger. We were able to fight and able to overtake quick cars as well.

"I did a very, very good start, and overtook three or four cars straight away but, because of the problem in the first corner, I had to go completely outside of the track and lost the positions - and even more - so I had to start again after the safety car. If I had been able to be in the same position I had got to at the start, it would have even been possible to maybe fight for the podium."

Heading to Monza to perform in front of Ferrari's legendary tifosi, Massa admits that the Scuderia needs to work on its qualifying performance, not only for his own performance, but also for his team-mate's championship bid.

"I think qualifying is definitely important for us, just to have an easier race," he explained, "I think maybe qualifying was not so great for me this year, but I always had good direction, good pace in the races - not counting the first few races, but afterwards.

"The problem is that Spa is much different than this track. In Spa, you do need good downforce, especially in sector two and everything. Here, it's a different track and we'll see how the car behaves on this different track. So we hope we can have a great weekend, both of us, for our incredible fans here."