Felipe Massa has warned his Williams team that it needs to plan well for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix if it wants to take the opportunity of beating Red Bull and Ferrari.
Speaking after qualifying sixth fastest for the race in Shanghai, Massa saw no reason not to expect to compete with two of the sport's biggest names, particularly if the weather takes a turn for the best and produces a dry track for the fourth round of the 2014 F1 world championship.
Buoyed by an improvement in the performance of his FW36 since the last race in Bahrain, the Brazilian will be looking to capitalise on a strong qualifying result that he thought could have been even better had it not been for picking the wrong tyres at the start of the final session.
With rain continuing to fall over the Shanghai International Circuit throughout Saturday, Massa opted for a new set of intermediate tyres to start the third phase of qualifying but, when conditions improved for his final run, he found that he only had used rubber to fit to the car.
“It could have been a little bit better because, in Q3, I was supposed to go out on the extreme [wet tyre], but I asked to change to the intermediates,” he revealed, “I went out on new tyres [at the start of] Q3 and, when I stopped, I didn't have new tyres any more, so I put on the old scrubbed tyres. The track was at its best at the end, so I did my time on the scrubbed tyres and I am sure there was some [loss of] performance there. Every time I tried new tyres and old tyres, the old tyres were a lot slower, so I am sure it may even have been possible to start fifth.”
Despite his frustration, Massa insisted that it had still be a positive day, and that his p grid position gives Williams – which also has Valtteri Bottas lining up seventh fastest – a good shot at competing with Ferrari, which starts fifth with Fernando Alonso, and Red Bull, which lines up second and third.
“In conditions like this, so many things can happen and, while we didn't do a good job on this side, it was still positive,” the former Ferrari pilot claimed, “It was a positive day, it showed the positive improvement of the car, and I hope that we can see a competitive car in the dry as well.
“I think it proved we've made a step forward – for sure, it is not the same car that we had in the last race. It is the first race that we bring some new pieces to the car and we are using most of them. It shows that this car has good potential - I am sure there is still a lot to do and still a lot to improve this car and make it quicker, but it shows that today is a step forward compared to the wet conditions we've had until now, so I am happy.”
Of course, Williams is not the only team making strides with its car, and Massa was quick to admit that, having started ahead of many of its rivals – particularly with the Mercedes engine – others will have bigger gains to make, but he remains optimistic of taking the fight to those around him on the grid.
“For sure, Red Bull made a good step, but I think maybe the rainy conditions are better for them than the dry, so we'll wait and see how it will be tomorrow,” he noted, “When I look around, I see that it is big teams fighting with us. I think it is difficult to fight with Mercedes if they don't have a problem but, for Red Bull and Ferrari, we need to do a good job, a good strategy, do everything right to beat them. I'll be ready for that, be ready to fight.
“I think [Ferrari has] made a good step forward since the last race, especially looking at how they were in practice, so it won't be easy, but we need to be ready to fight with Fernando, with Sebastian, everybody…”
Massa also urged Williams not to focus too heavily on developing the power of its car, figuring that the technical emphasis may change later in the season.
“We are definitely in good shape with the engines, but it's not just the engine,” he said, “We need to concentrate on the [whole] car. I think the championship, from the first race, showed that the engine factor is big, but I think, after mid-season, [the main factor] could be aerodynamic, so we need to do a good job in the wind tunnel, we need to do a good job with the aerodynamics. You see it already in this race, but we need to see a good step forward race by race.”