Felipe Massa has rubbished claims that should he prevail in the close battle for the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship he will not be a worthy winner, as Ferrari's preparations for the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix this weekend got off to an encouraging start.

The Brazilian arrived in the Far Eastern city-state trailing his chief opponent for the crown, McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, by a sole marker in the drivers' standings.

Had the British ace not been controversially demoted from first to third place in the Belgian Grand Prix earlier this month, however, it would be Hamilton with a five-point edge instead, and should the Spa result ultimately influence the destiny of the laurels, it has been suggested that the championship would have something of a false ring to it.

"If I win by one point, I am the winner," Massa rebuffed, quoted by F1SA. "It doesn't change anything. Looking at the rules, it [the appeal] was going to be very difficult for them. The result was pretty fair."

The duo proved evenly-matched in Friday morning practice around the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit, Hamilton seeing off Massa's challenge by a scant eight hundredths of a second, with the Brazilian halving that deficit in the afternoon as both were surprisingly pipped to the top spot by the Renault of Fernando Alonso.

"A positive day," the 27-year-old summarised at the close of proceedings. "This is only the start of the weekend and there is still a lot of work to do, but we have got off on the right foot. The car is handling well, especially on the harder tyres, but we know track conditions will improve so it is too early to draw conclusions.

"Visibility is not a problem. The entry and exit to the pit-lane could turn out to be a bit critical in the race. In general, the track surface has a lot of grip but in some points there are some bumps that are a bit of a pain.

"I think we will be competitive; whether we will be more or less so than our rivals, I cannot yet say. It is a street circuit which means you have to concentrate all the time, as there is no margin for error."

Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen - for whom Singapore must mark a last chance saloon for his fading hopes of defending his hard-fought title - wound up just fifth on the final timesheets, having lapped the 3.15-mile layout almost a second slower than Massa in the afternoon. The Finn predicted that qualifying would be crucial ahead of a grand prix that may offer precious few opportunities to pass.

"The visibility is great," the 28-year-old commented, "and you don't really feel you are driving at night with all the lights on the track. In general I like the track, although some parts are too bumpy. The entry and exit to the pit-lane are pretty difficult, and we will have to be very careful.

"At the start of the day we had a well-balanced car and then, in the afternoon, we tried a modification to the front end that we had tried at the Mugello test last week. It did not produce the effect we hoped for, but there was not enough time to switch back. Overall, I think we will be competitive. Overtaking? I don't think we will see much...as usual in fact."

Aside from Massa's duel with Hamilton for drivers' glory, Ferrari is similarly embroiled in a tense scrap with McLaren for constructors' honours, as a mere five points separate the two outfits in Maranello's favour with 72 still to play for between now and season's end. The Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali knows there is no longer even the slightest margin for error.

"Definitely a different Friday to usual," the Italian acknowledged. "The timetable and the on-track action taking place under artificial lighting gave it a really special atmosphere.

"Overall, this has been a positive day. We acquired a lot of data, which we must analyse to be as well-prepared as possible for qualifying and the race. From what we saw today, and taking into account the usual unknowns on a Friday, we should be competitive compared to our closest rivals."

"Running under these lighting conditions and to this time schedule has been a very interesting experience," added technical director Luca Baldisserri. "From a strictly technical point-of-view, it was a normal Friday, dedicated to finding the best set-up and comparing the two types of tyre available.

"In general, the F2008 seems pretty well-balanced on this track. In the second session, on Kimi's car, we tried some settings we had tested last week at Mugello, which apparently do not seem to offer much in the way of performance. However, we must analyse the data carefully before reaching any definite conclusions.

"At some points on the track, the kerbs make driving very demanding, which can be seen from the fact that there were quite a few spins and off-track excursions. Also, the entry and exit to the pit-lane have to be approached with caution both by those using them and the cars out on-track."


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