Over the years, Felipe Massa has been one of the drivers most adversely affected by the tyres provided to F1, but the Brazilian insists that he is a lot happier in 2013.
The latest batch of Pirelli rubber, which is softer across the range than in recent years, has coincided with a return to form for Massa, who conceded late last year that he had stopped trying to match Ferrari tam-mate Fernando Alonso and concentrate on his own game, has enjoyed a dramatic turnaround in fortune, going from failing to threaten the points to becoming a genuine contender.
“I think, since the middle of last year, we understood a lot more how to work with the tyres, how to work with the car, to improve the car, the set-up,” he reflected, “I'm sure how we started this year was much more in a good way. I'm very comfortable in the car and I think, when you are comfortable, you drive automatically, [and] can do the best job you can on the car. This is the job we did last year and [while] it's a different car [in 2013], I think the working is in the right direction.”
Prior to last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, he had out-qualified his much-vaunted team-mate in four straight races, dating back to the 2012 US Grand Prix, and started from the front row in Malaysia. Although his results do not necessarily reflect that improvement, Massa has been able to run with Alonso at each event this year, and now heads to Bahrain International Circuit, with which he has always had a strong affinity.
Although he is in the minority lamenting Pirelli's late decision to swap its soft compound for the harder medium this weekend, the Brazilian insists that he is happy with the tyres that have been causing consternation elsewhere in the pit-lane.
“F1 is something that you have to learn year-by-year, it's part of the school that we have every year,” he explained, “Rules change, things change - you need to learn how to drive the car with the tyres, so you need to learn how to save the tyres.
“From a driving point of view, for sure, sometimes the situation is not easy for us to race, to save the tyres [but], when you are at home, watching the race, I think it is very nice to see now, and much nicer in comparison to the past. Many people complain about what Pirelli is doing, but I think they're going in a good direction for the sport. [Choosing] the right difference between all the tyres - supersoft, soft, medium and hard - is one of the little things where we have to work in a better direction, but I think the races are very nice to watch.”
Despite struggling on the harder compounds in the past, Massa was pleased to report that he had no issues in Malaysia this season, as Ferrari appears to have produced a car that is relatively consistent across the tyre range.
“The only problem I had was that the degradation was similar to the medium, but [it was] not just for me, but for most of the teams,” the Brazilian reported, “I think that's a little problem of the tyres.