Ferrari number two driver Felipe Massa shined in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix today and secured his first front row grid spot for more than three years.
The Brazilian enjoyed a something of a renaissance at the end of 2012 and he has maintained that momentum into F1 2013. Indeed not only did he end Q3 'best of the rest' behind pole man, Sebastian Vettel, but he also again out-qualified his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, the fourth race in succession he has had the measure of the Spaniard.
Speaking after qualifying, Massa admitted that the rain had probably helped the Scuderia 'a bit', although he was still happy with the Ferrari F138.
“It was a great qualifying in which we managed to make the most of all the opportunities that came our way,” Massa said.
“In Q3, we decided to stop towards the end of the session to fit a new set of intermediates and this allowed me to do a lap good enough to take second place on the grid. I am very happy with this team result, which is down to the great job done over the winter months.
“The car has shown itself to be competitive in all conditions, both in the wet and dry, but we must continue to improve. Today, we were up against very strong opposition and maybe the rain helped us a bit, because in normal conditions it would have been harder to aim for this result.
“Now we can expect a long and difficult race in which anything can happen and in which strategy and tyre management will be the key, while the uncertainty over the weather won't help anyone”.
Ferrari technical director Pat Fry meanwhile added that tyre conservation was the name of the game in quali, although if it is wet on Sunday, that will negate any advantage of having more fresh rubber.
“Like all the other teams, we tackled today's qualifying with the aim of using as few tyres as possible to save them for tomorrow's race,” Fry confirmed. “It took just one run on the hard compound to get both drivers through to the second part, providing various options for the rest of the session.
“In Q2, we used just one set of Mediums and even without the rain, I think that we would have managed to get through to the final part without any trouble. From then on, as predicted, it started to rain, but not enough to complicate matters: even though the track was wet, it was clear that Intermediates were the right choice.
“Going for a pit stop change after the first few laps proved to be the right move: we had to evaluate a subtle balance between tyre temperature and the amount of water on track and while at the time that can seem stressful, given the conditions, thinking back, it was relatively straightforward. If the rain holds off tomorrow, it will be very interesting to see how everyone exploits the tyres. All the teams have a few more new sets, which will make for a fascinating race”.