Felipe Massa insists that he has nothing to prove this season, despite lining up against a world champion team-mate and having another reportedly pursuing his seat at Ferrari for 2009.

Although the jury is still out on whether or not Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will form F1's latest 'dream team' next season, especially as Massa recently signed a contract extension, the talk persists. Massa, however, is adamant that he feels no more pressure than in any other season.

"It's going to be more or less the same," he said, "We were under pressure to win [in 2007] because we had not been winning for two years - and we won. Now, we continue to have the pressure to be in front because we won last year, so the pressure is going to be the same.

"When you race for a team such as Ferrari, you are always under pressure, but one thing is to do your job and, despite what people say, it's what counts when you drive. What counts is the mentality of the team."

A title contender until four races from the end of 2007, Massa knows that he will need better reliability if he is to fulfil his potential as a challenger this season. Although it is too early to say how the new F2008 will react in competition, the Brazilian is determined to iron out as many wrinkles before the first round in Melbourne as possible.

"We have the new car and we're going to have see how reliable it is," he said ahead of this week's Jerez group test, "Last year, we lost many points due to problems with reliability which ended many races, so this year, this season, we're working a lot on the car to understand if problems exist so that we can start the championship with a car that we hope is going to be 100 per cent reliable.

"Personally, I think the car is going to be ready just before the start of the championship, so we have to develop the car, even if in Jerez should the lap times not be that far from the lap times of the last season. The numbers we have seen, the data in the wind tunnel, are positive but, of course, we have to see what the others are going to do because, even if our data is incredible, if others go faster, then perhaps they have improved more than us, they have worked more on their new car."

With significant rule changes in force for 2008, Massa also knows that he will have to adapt for the coming season, but foresees no problems in that department.

"A driver always learns, especially as, in F1, the regulations change by year," he maintained, "Maybe tyres change, or the electronics change, so there is always something to learn. Every year there is something new, which means that we start again from scratch every year. We also will have to focus on what we did wrong the previous years and what we did right, and draw experience from that for the new season, improving on what one didn't do right the previous years.

"These [2008] regulations are going to lead to some changes in how we are going to have to tackle the car, but also how we are going to have to drive the car during the race. If you are too aggressive, you may destroy the tyres more quickly, so I think that, during the races, we are going to be a bit more careful. Without traction control, we are going to have to drive a bit differently so as not to wear out the tyres. Of course we have to learn this, learn to optimise it.

"We have to take over what the electronics did in the past. That doesn't mean that it's going to be something from another planet, we simply have to learn and be softer on the pedal. I see that the lap times are more or less the same as against lap times with traction control at the end of the season, so it hasn't been that difficult to come to grips with the new regulations.

"The starts are [also] going to more human, because you don't have the electronic controls, [and] the driver is going to count more. Up to last year, the technicians did the starts for us in a way, but now all of us are going to have cars on an equal basis. It is going to more fun for us."

 

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