Felipe Massa reckons that race fans could be in for a more spectacular F1 this season as teams and drivers come to terms with the latest round of technical changes.
Having topped the timesheets on the final day of the Jerez group test, the Brazilian was naturally delighted with his first taste of the revised rulebook, but admitted that there were still a lot of things to learn, both from the new cars and the best way of driving them.
Massa was spotted 'getting the tail out' through the chicane during his two days in Williams' new FW36, and revealed that it wasn't just down to the fact that the track was damp.
“There will be a lot of sideways this year!” he exclaimed to Crash.net, “I think, for sure, you are going to see the cars sliding more because you have less grip. With less grip and more torque sometimes, in the corner, you go sideways because of torque steer. You have wheelspin where the car slides more…
“But it is never very good to go sideways, to be honest, because you are losing time. You need to learn to drive as smooth as possible.”
Asked whether it had been difficult getting heat into the latest breed of Pirelli tyres, Massa confessed that the new car's characteristics actually made it easier in some circumstances, although he also conceded that the conditions in Spain didn't provide the best means of comparing the various compounds.
“[Getting heat into the tyres] isn't that difficult as we have more wheelspin, and that is heating the tyres up,” he revealed, “For sure, today was damp and cold which are not easy conditions, and we were suffering with warm up, but with the hard tyres, not the medium. When I was out on the medium, and Fernando [Alonso] was out on the medium doing high 32s, 33s, another car went out on the super soft and, straight away, was doing 31s, so there is a big difference on the tyres in these conditions.”
There were other elements of the car that were taking a little longer to get to grips with too…
“The brakes work in a different way,” he explained, “This is the famous brake-by-wire and I still need to improve a lot the way I am braking, because it is different and a little bit strange some times. [Braking] is not something it is easy to have 100 per cent confidence in, especially to brake late... but it is something we will learn.
“We still need to understand how to use the engine too, as we have a lot of wheelspin as there is less downforce than last year. The engine isn't as strong but, without the downforce, it makes it difficult to drive, so it is important to know how to use the gearshift.
“The car is much slower than last year. Of course, when you drive on the limit, you are trying to use everything from the car but, when the car is difficult to drive, it doesn't feel slow because it is more difficult. When the car is easier to drive, with the grip and everything, then it feels slow even if you are doing much quicker lap-times, so it depends on the balance.
“For sure, there is much to improve [and] I'll tell you [if i like it] after the first race. It is too early now. It is interesting though. We had a good day today and yesterday, but let's see how we start - if you feel competitive, you'll always like it!”
Although his two days passed off largely without incident, Massa admitted that there was still a long way to go before he could make a guess at how the first race would turn out, but insisted that Williams had to be prepared to pick up the pieces from what could still be an unpredictable opener.
“It is a very challenging season, maybe the most challenging, not just for the drivers, but for the teams too, because it is very difficult to put things together for the first race,” he noted, “I think it will be a big evolution for the championship and maybe, at the first race, you will see a result that you do not see at the end of the championship. It is something we need to be ready for - maybe it is a race where not many cars finish, so it will be important to finish ... and, if you finish, maybe you can even win the race! So many things can happen this year.”