Felipe Massa believes the Australian Grand Prix usually holds 'a few surprises' and isn't expecting anything less from this year's Formula 1 season opener.

The Williams driver has an unwanted wealth of experience in early-season misfortune in Australia after suffering seven retirements out of the 12 races he's contested at Albert Park. The Brazilian driver was taken out of last season's race after Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi suffered rear brake failure and slammed into Massa, taking them both out of the race on the first lap.

Massa is hopeful he can steer clear on any trouble in his Williams FW37 after enjoying a highly-productive pre-season testing programme. The Williams team admit they still have work to do to catch up Mercedes but feel they head the chasing pack consisting of Ferrari, Red Bull and Lotus. The 33-year-old driver is hopeful all of Williams winter testing will pay off for the season opener.

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"Being the first race, Australia is important and normally holds a few surprises," Massa said. "All of the hard work over the winter gets its first rewards here, but it can also show a sign of how much work is still to be done.

"It's important to start well and give yourself potentially a head start over your competitors. Australia is a tough track though and the rear stability is important. I also hope that I personally have a better start to the season than last year."

Despite Massa's bad luck around Albert Park the Brazilian does have one podium to his name in Australia, finishing third in 2010 with Ferrari. If he can avoid any problems he will be fancied as one of the favourites to hunt down the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.