Normally, being handed an extra grid position for the start of a race would be a cause for celebration. But that's not the case this weekend for Felipe Massa, after he was promoted up to sixth for the start of the 2012 United States Grand Prix
Massa had qualified in seventh place, but news that the Lotus of Romain Grosjean
was to take a five-place grid penalty ahead of the start of the race on Sunday means that he gains a spot - but that puts him on the wrong side of the grid as far as the Brazilian is concerned.
"It's the first time we're not happy about gaining a grid position!" he admitted after learning where he would start the race from. "Starting from the dirty side of the track is definitely not helpful."
Dust and dirt off the racing line has been one of the major issues at the brand new Circuit of the Americas
in Austin, Texas, and some teams are predicting that starting from the 'wrong' side of the grid off the cleaned-up racing line could cost drivers two positions off the line in the run up to turn 1.
Massa did at least have the satisfaction of out-qualifying the Ferrari
team leader Fernando Alonso, who will start immediately behind him on the grid from eighth - also handicapped by being on the dirtier side.
"This qualifying was pretty much a lottery," explained Massa. "The lucky number is always the last one! With this type of tyre on this asphalt one struggles to get the tyres up to temperature and one has to lap continuously before being able to set a good time. In Q2, we managed it, but in Q3 things did not go as well: it's never easy to do the perfect lap with so little grip."
"A very difficult qualifying, there's no doubt about it," agreed Ferrari's technical director Pat Fry. "The tyre-asphalt combination created conditions that were very difficult to interpret and we probably struggled more than others."
Ferrari have set a trend in 2012 for underperforming in qualifying but then driving above expectations on race day. They'll have to do the same in Texas if the team is to keep Fernando Alonso's title hopes alive for another week.
"It will definitely not be an easy race for us, given the grid positions of our main rivals," admitted Massa. "But we must stay focused because all the same, tomorrow will be hard for everyone. We will have to do our utmost and then we will see how it goes."
"Clearly we can expect a very complicated Sunday, but there's no point crying over spilt milk," said Fry. "We must just try and do our utmost to give our drivers the chance to run as good a race as possible.
"From what we can see over these past two days, tyre degradation seems rather low, therefore it's more than likely we can expect just one stop, so that's probably one less variable in terms of the strategy," he added.