Felipe Massa has admitted that he was disappointed to see little in the way of improvement in Suzuka track conditions after spending much of Friday pounding around in the wet.
The Brazilian was asked whether he felt drainage at the Japanese Grand Prix venue had been improved since last year's tragic F1 race, in which Jules Bianchi's Marussia skated off the track in torrential rain and made contact with a rescue vehicle. The Frenchman subsequently lost his fight for life earlier this summer, making this weekend's return to Suzuka all the more poignant.
For the weekend to dawn wet was an added irony and, while all 20 drivers took to the track for two 90-minute practice sessions, Massa insisted that, in his opinion, the conditions in which they ran showed little change to twelve months ago.
“I think, when it's raining and there's a lot of water, aquaplaning is the main issue for me on this track, so I don't think [it's better],” he claimed, “I don't know [what the solution is] because there's a lot of up and down and hills, so it's not so easy. You can even see on the television there are a lot of rivers and this was always a problem with this track since I started, so I really don't see an improvement.”
On a difficult day for the Williams team, which saw team-mate Valtteri Bottas sit out the afternoon session in a bid to save some wet-weather tyres should he need them later in the weekend, Massa wound up 16th fastest but said he expected better when the conditions change.
“We want to be competitive, to show that maybe the amount of time we lost today was not so important. That's our goal,” he insisted, “There will be a lot of work for tomorrow because, today, we didn't do so much work. Tomorrow, maybe we start a little bit from zero if it's dry in the morning, [but I hope] we can prepare well for qualifying and the long run will be a little bit of a surprise for everybody on Sunday. I really hope tomorrow is dry and we can see and understand a competitive car straight away.”
The inclement conditions at least gave Williams a chance to work on solutions for its poor wet weather performance and Massa was optimistic that the team had taken a step in the right direction by running its cars with very different set-ups in FP1.
“Yeah, I think so,” he nodded, “We did some work on the set-up today, with different set-ups with both cars, and we did a few runs to understand if the ideas we have worked. Actually, it works in the way we understand, the way we believe, so maybe it can help us a little bit in these kind of conditions.”
Despite the progress, Massa remains adamant that Williams' best hope of a good result will come on a dry track, where closest championship rival Red Bull remains the target.
“I think, if it's dry, we have more chance,” the Brazilian concluded, “If it's dry, we can be more competitive and we can really show our performance in the best way. I think, if it's wet, [Red Bull] are in good shape but, if it's dry, maybe we can fight and even finish in front of them.”