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Massa: A lot of unanswered questions still in Malaysia

6 April 2011

Felipe Massa has admitted that arriving in Kuala Lumpur for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix – the second round on the F1 2011 World Championship schedule – there are 'still a lot of unanswered questions', but he nonetheless anticipates 'a completely different performance' from Ferrari as he bids to claim a strong result to dedicate to friend Gustavo Sondermann.

Sondermann was tragically killed in a pick-up race at Interlagos on Sunday – forming part of the Brazilian Stock Car Championship – following a terrible accident at the same Curva do Café corner where a motorcycle racer similarly lost his life in February and that also claimed Rafael Sperafico four years ago. Massa reveals that he will be competing this weekend with his compatriot chief amongst his thoughts.

“I wish to express my great sadness at the death of Gustavo Sondermann,” the Brazilian wrote in his blog on Ferrari's official website. “I knew him well, and our fathers are friends; I feel great pain at his loss and definitely, all my thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time. It would be nice if I could get a good result in Malaysia which I could dedicate to him.”

In order to do that, of course, the Prancing Horse will need to improve significantly upon the steady gallop that it managed Down Under, with Fernando Alonso taking the chequered flag a distant fourth around the streets of Albert Park, and Massa coming in a lowly ninth – albeit subsequently promoted to seventh by the double Sauber disqualification ahead.

Last year at Sepang, you will no doubt remember, Ferrari got it all wrong in qualifying, calamitously misreading the changing conditions with the upshot that its two drivers wound up a disastrous 19th (Alonso) and 21st (Massa) on the grid. Aside from extracting more of the potential from the F150° Italia, the 2008 world championship runner-up concedes that with rain set to disrupt all three days of the 2011 edition, the team will need to be 'ready for anything'.

“I have kept in touch on a regular basis with the engineers in Maranello, so I know I can expect some changes on the car when I get inside the cockpit again on Friday,” explained the 29-year-old, who has spent the time since Melbourne back at home in his native São Paulo. “No-one at Ferrari was satisfied with our overall performance, nor the final result of the Australian Grand Prix, and much work has gone into understanding why that race did not live up to our expectations and then to plan how to move forward this weekend.

“Here in Malaysia, there will still be a lot of unanswered questions as we start practice, because if you compare Melbourne with Sepang, the difference is as clear as black and white. The Melbourne asphalt is not very abrasive, the temperature is cool, the track is more of a city track – even if it is a real race circuit – and the corner types are very different. Sepang is very hot and it's a proper racetrack, with a lot of high-speed sections, fast corners and many changes of direction.

“From a physical point-of-view, the difference is also obvious – driving Albert Park is very easy and you get out of the car at the end of the race feeling completely fresh, whereas in Malaysia you lose a lot of fluid and lose weight and generally it is much more demanding. For all these reasons, I expect to see a completely different performance from our team and from our car.

“Looking at the weather here, it seems inevitable that we will have the usual heavy showers at some point every afternoon, which will be interesting. So far, I have had just one day of testing on Pirelli rain tyres, at Jerez back in February, which is not enough to have a good understanding.

“We will have to be well-prepared for any eventuality, and it will be an interesting experiment seeing how the tyres work in both very hot and very wet conditions. This will therefore be a very important weekend for Pirelli after what was a relatively easy debut for them in Melbourne.

“As a driver, there is not much you can do to deal with the hot conditions, but honestly, if you are fit enough there is not much else you need to do. I have tried various methods, such as soaking my overalls in cold water before the start. Whatever you do, this is going to be a tough race – it's not just the hot conditions, because it is the humidity that makes it unpleasant.

“For example, we have raced in Bahrain in an ambient temperature of 40 degrees, but I did not even sweat in the car because there in the desert it is a very dry heat. In Malaysia, the problem is the humidity which makes you suffer more, losing body fluids, which then affects your strength and your concentration. No matter how fit you are, you suffer more at this circuit than at others. At least the time I spent in Brazil was useful, as it was very hot there too.

“Last year, we made a strategic mistake in the wet qualifying at Sepang and I started 21st on the grid, eventually making it up to seventh at the end of Sunday's race. We will be working hard to avoid a similar error; like I said, the key at Sepang is to be ready for anything.”


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