Felipe Massa's form over the past few months has been one of the talking points among the F1 fraternity, and the Brazilian is poised to hand Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso an unwanted record at next weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
Should he continue to exhibit the sort of pace with which he ended the 2012 season and carried into 2013, Massa could become the first team-mate to out-qualify Alonso five times in a row with a better performance than the Spaniard next Saturday in China.
Not even Lewis Hamilton, in his rookie season alongside Alonso at McLaren in 2007, managed to inflict five successive qualifying 'defeats' on the double world champion, but Massa's improved form – which began late in the 2012 campaign when he admits he stopped trying to out-drive his team-mate – suggests that it is possible.
The run started at last year's US Grand Prix in Texas, where Massa's performance was undone by Ferrari's decision to break the seal on his gearbox in order to promote Alonso to the cleaner side of the grid in a bid to prolong his championship challenge. It then continued into the Brazilian's home race at Interlagos, where he was rewarded with a podium finish, and carried through the winter to see him line up ahead of Alonso in both Australia and Malaysia.
Although the Spaniard was aided by strategy en route
to a podium finish in the opening round of 2013, the Spaniard's second lap exit at Sepang left Massa as Ferrari's only runner, but the Brazilian was unable to convert a front row start into anything more than fifth place as tyre wear hobbled the F138.
While the Scuderia's management has lauded Massa's return to something approaching his 2008 level of performance – something it craved as it looked to challenge Red Bull for overall honours - two points finishes see Massa sitting four points, and one place, above his team-mate in the early season standings, and his form could yet give Ferrari a headache it could not have imagined at the times last season when it was considering axing its 'number two'.