Felipe Massa might have claimed that his Chinese Grand Prix weekend was 'fantastic' but admits that there is work to be done before Williams can consider itself a threat to the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes.
Massa finished a relatively lonely fifth in Shanghai, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas similarly isolated behind him, but still said that the result had capped off a strong personal weekend in which he qualified on row two of the grid and added more points to his championship tally.
“I think it was fantastic – very good weekend, very good qualifying, a perfect lap in qualifying, very good race,” he reflected, “Unfortunately the start and corner one was not very good – I had to brake because I was so close to Sebastian [Vettel] and I lost two positions. Then, fortunately, Kimi [Raikkonen] tried to pass Valtteri in corner six and I got one position back and then, after that, it was a very, very good race.
“We managed a good pace, used the tyres in a good way, having the right balance, and built a gap compared to my team-mate, so I think it was a very good weekend in terms of everything I did.”
Despite the personal satisfaction, however, Massa knows that fifth place was probably the limit of the FW37 as things stand.
“I think, to be honest, we finish where we are for the moment,” he reasoned, “We are the third team and we finished fifth and sixth. Definitely, it would be nice to finish in front of Ferrari and maybe also close to Mercedes, as we are always looking forward, but it is not the case and, for the moment, this is where we are.
“We need to push, to improve, but we can say also that it is not completely negative as we are third in the championship and we get good points compared to the guys behind. But we need to work to make the car better to catch the guys in front – which is not easy.”
The Brazilian veteran admits that there is nothing wrong with the Williams package as such, and the Mercedes engine continues to prove reliable, but concedes that Ferrari, in particular, has bridged the divide that allowed the Grove team to finish third in last year's standings.
“It is true, comparing to Ferrari, that we don't have any advantage on the engine,” he insisted, “Last year, we had a lot, this year we have no advantage on the engine. Everybody says 'Mercedes, Mercedes….' but it is not any more - Ferrari is pretty strong and they have a very strong engine. Last year, we don't know if our car was better or worse compared to Ferrari, but the power unit was a lot better. This year, they are really strong....
“Maybe, in qualifying, we did more than we expected but, in the race, the gap is bigger than in qualifying. I think it is limited to tyres as Ferrari use the tyres in a better way and I think that makes the gap bigger. If you drive in a proper way, after two laps you have no grip in the tyres anymore, so you need to take a lot of care. Last year, we were using the tyres in a good way – not at the beginning of the year, but from the middle to the end we did a good job. But this year is a different championship and the others have improved.”
Despite the frustration at having dropped behind Ferrari in the pecking order, Massa knows that Williams has the development potential to get back into the fight.
“I trust the team 100 per cent,” he claimed, “and I am pushing and trying to help the team 100 per cent to find the improvements that we need. It was the first race where we had even a little new piece on the car, so it is still a long way to go...”