Massa's Blog

"A race compromised from the start"

April 30, 2009 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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San Paolo - Four races and still no points, although at least Kimi got some at Sakhir, so that the Scuderia has finally got off the mark. In all the past years when things were going very well for us, we have always said that, in F1, things can change very quickly and with a quarter of the 2009 almost completed, we have had the proof of that with new names at the top of the order.

In Bahrain we had an exceptionally good chance to score some serious points, but my race was compromised right from the start when I had a collision. The fact the collision was with my team-mate Kimi is just one of those things that can happen in racing, especially at the start when everyone is so close. I was in the middle of a sandwich and lost my front wing and the long pit stop meant my race was pretty much over. So it’s no big deal that it happened with him, but it did ruin my whole afternoon after that, although other problems like the telemetry not working didn’t help either.

We did make a step forward in Bahrain in terms of performance and that is partly down to running the KERS again, which was definitely an advantage at the Sakhir track. The performance itself was quite reasonable and I was able to run at a strong pace when I had a clear track ahead of me, so I think we can claim to have made a step forward, even though there is still a need to improve the car and, of course, this is what everyone at Maranello is working on right now.

What you can be sure of is that all the teams will be working hard and most should improve by the time we get to Barcelona, so that whatever Ferrari can do will have to be measured against that. We have a big package coming for Spain and it’s not just a case of working on producing a new double diffuser, even though this is the element that has caught everyone’s imagination. The numbers show this should have a big effect on lap time and I am pretty confident this should allow the Scuderia to make a big step forward.

The fact the next race is in Barcelona has several advantages, even if they apply to all the teams equally: it is a track that has been used so much for testing that everyone knows what to expect and how to analyse the data we will get there on Friday, taking into account outside factors like ambient temperature and the wind speed and direction. In addition, the character of the track calls for a very efficient car and therefore it can provide us with an accurate picture of just how the F60 is performing with the new parts we will have on it for the race weekend. Hopefully, we will use this to our advantage to improve our qualifying performance to give us a better chance in the race.

It seems strange now to be back home in Brazil after the race in Bahrain, as in past years, the ten days before the first European race used to see some of the most intensive testing activity of the year, but now of course, all that is banned. To be honest, even if it seems strange not to be driving somewhere in Europe right now, I have been making up for it by keeping in touch with the factory more closely than usual. We have all had to find different ways to do our job and try and improve our car, without actually running on track. In this situation, using a simulator becomes very important and currently Ferrari is working on the development of a new one, which should prove even more useful than the one we have at present. On the plus side, I’ve been able to come back home to Brazil for one week and on Sunday, I head back to Europe and from then on I will stay there for most of the European summer.

Four races in five weekends has made for a very intense start to the season and my aim now is firstly to score my first points of the year and then to look to go for my first win of the season. Until we start winning races again, it’s difficult to start thinking in terms of the championship. We need to work day and night to return to having a very competitive car. Only then we can start thinking about the championship titles – maybe it will be too late, maybe not, but we’re not giving up.

Although it’s been a tough time for us at the Scuderia, I am still enjoying my driving at the moment. We have all these new elements, the slick tyres, the KERS, the adjustable front wing and making the most of them on track has been very interesting. A bit more downforce would make it even more fun! But I’ve got my job to do and even if I only had three wheels on my car I would still be doing my best and improve the situation. But for now, more downforce is what I want.

When we get to Spain, without the benefit of being able to test, Friday morning will be very interesting. Although it is too early to establish our programme for the first day of practice in Barcelona, we might try the new package on one car only in the first session in the morning, in order to run a comparison test with the old one, before both running it in the second session. But nearer the time, we will have a better idea if there’s a need to do a back to back. With all the new aero packages and other interesting developments throughout the field, it should be a very interesting Friday for everyone.

 

Sakhir: "I do expect to be more competitive"

April 21, 2009 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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Dubai - The days of putting my thoughts down after each race and talking about winning and being on the podium seem to be a long time ago at the moment and honestly, going over each race is currently more of a pain than a pleasure. But I’ve not given up hope and there were some bright moments in a very dark and wet Chinese weekend.

In Shanghai, we still were not competitive enough and we had also taken the decision to run without KERS which could have been more of a handicap, but in the rain on Sunday, we were very strong. I was able to make up several places and I was running at a pace similar to the guys at the front of the field. That was the plus side, but on the minus side, reliability let us down again and I was unable to finish the race. Back at the factory, we continue to push very hard to overcome these reliability problems. The electrical fault that forced me to stop at the side of the track was, once again, a failure we had neverseen before. It has to be said that luck doesn’t seem to be on our side at the moment, as it was a very small and stupid problem that made the car stop, because it was simply a faulty reading within the on board data that indicated to the control unit that the throttle should be shut down. So, even though there was actually nothing wrong, the car’s computer decided to shut down the throttle and I had to park it.

After Malaysia, we restructured the race team, with Chris Dyer, our head of race engineering, taking on more responsibility trackside and in China this worked well. Chris is very calm and patient when it comes to making decisions. Although, in reality, once we had decided I was on a one-stop strategy for the race, there were not that many decisions to make on my car. So, it is too early to say how the new organisation will work out and we must wait and see what happens in more complex race situations. I am sure Chris will do a good job.

Because of problems in Malaysia, we opted not to use the KERS and, given that we had a wet race, this had less of a negative impact on our performance than if it had been dry. But, even in the rain, KERS could have been useful down the straights. At the time of writing, I am not entirely sure whether or not we will have it in Bahrain. Back in the factory, a great deal of work has gone into working on the system since the race in Sepang, so I am hopeful it can help us in this race.

Currently, I am in Dubai, and tomorrow, I am making a stop in Abu Dhabi, attending events for Mubadala and Etihad, before arriving in Bahrain on Wednesday night. I have always gone well at the Sakhir circuit, winning for the last two years, so I hope this is a good sign. In more practical terms, we tested here during the winter and the car was not too bad to be honest and the tyres seemed to suit the package we have. I really do expect to be more competitive, especially if we have KERS, as it should be a significant advantage at this track. I hope that finally we can make life difficult for the other teams and fight for a very good result. I am very motivated, despite the difficult times until now. But change must come and hopefully that will start this weekend. It should be much hotter than we are used to here, but I don’t think that should be a problem to deal with.

 

Looking at China

April 13, 2009 · Posted by Felipe Massa
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Sao Paolo, April 13th 2009 - I am back in Sao Paolo for a few days and I have to say it’s always nice to come home, especially as I haven’t been here for about three months, a long time. I’m training and relaxing a bit but not for long because on Sunday I’m back on a plane flying to China.

Looking to take some positives from the Malaysian weekend, I think the car was a little bit more competitive, especially in terms of race pace, even if its still not easy in qualifying to find  the best lap. On Friday, we had a very good run and then, on Saturday in qualifying we had a big problem to get past Q1 but that was down to different issues in terms of how we tackled the session, rather than a car performance matter.

The car is getting more competitive all the time and the F60 should have some aerodynamic updates in China, which means it should make another step forward, but we still need to improve a lot because the guys in front, especially the Brawns are very strong. We need to push and we need to try our best, but at the moment Formula 1 seems to be split into three groups: cars running the special diffuser, cars running KERS, cars without KERS or the diffuser, so it’s hard to assess what is really going on across all the teams.

On Sunday night, after a second race where we failed to score points, I said that it was not a case of everyone at Ferrari becoming stupid or forgetting how to do their jobs which caused us to have a bad weekend, but we need to be cool and calm now in how we take decisions at the track. If you are too emotional, most of the time you do the wrong thing. We need to get on the right path to taking better decisions and, since Sepang, we have discussed ways of improving the organisation of the race team, while also improving the car of course. At the moment, we are not very good in many aspects of what we are doing, but it is also true that we have very good people within the race team and back in Maranello, so we know we can react, improve and change some details. But it is important that we do not try and change everything, because if you change too much, you can make matters even worse. We know what areas we need to work on and everyone in the team is really motivated to improve, which is the most important thing.

As for the last race, it was very chaotic because of the weather. We always knew that a late start in Malaysia would be a gamble in terms of the weather and the gamble was lost I guess. When they decided not to restart the race, the conditions were actually okay for racing, but it would have been far too dark to do the necessary number of laps to award full points. Even if it looked quite light, if you were watching on TV, you have to remember we were near the equator and night time arrives like an on/off switch there: one moment it’s day, the next it’s night. The problem with these late starts is that the slightest problem with the race and there is no time to complete it.

This season we have seen the usual front runners, ourselves and McLaren, both struggling and this situation for sure is not helped by the fact that in-season testing is banned. But we can improve the car without testing, thanks to all the simulation tools available to us. Where I think we will miss the testing is that I feel there is no substitute for driving around a race track to ensure your car can run reliably. Reliability is something you can see in testing, whereas for developing the car, we can do that in the wind tunnel, because, in the past, most of the times we have brought developments from the tunnel to the track, they have worked. But this rule is the same for everyone and I don’t think it has a significant effect. I would say it is the other rules, for example those that govern elements like the diffuser and KERS that are causing the problems.

I am looking forward to China, in the hope that we finally score some points. In the past, I have come third and last year second at Shanghai and I would really like to be back on the podium again. I expect us to be maybe a couple of tenths quicker than in the first two races, which might be a help to move up the order, but we mustn’t forget the other teams are also working on their cars. We have to accept that this year, we do not have one of the quickest cars on the grid. So we need to find more performance. I like Shanghai and the track is very nice and I have a good feeling for it. I’m looking forward to bringing home our first points. Looking at the lack of points, we can take some consolation that last year after two races, I had no points, just like now, but the difference is that last year our car was a bit better compared to the opposition.

Before I joined Ferrari, I drove for a team that was not used to winning, but many people at the Scuderia have only known the successful times, so maybe I can understand better than them what it means to struggle. But I think a top team having a difficult season is better equipped to recover, so I am hopeful that we can put this bad start to the year behind us and get back on the right road.

 

Massa: "It's important to keep working with Kers"

April 1, 2009 · Posted by staffFerrari
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Sepang, April 1st 2009 - It’s not unusual for me to have a difficult start to the season, as the Australian race has unfortunately always been one where luck does not seem to have been with me. And that was definitely the case again this year. A tough start is something we know how to deal with as a team, but I would say that the difference for this year is that while, in the past, we knew we had a great car, I think this year there are definitely some teams currently running a better package than the one we have made around the F60.

On the plus side, my impression is that the nature of the Albert Park circuit and the conditions over the weekend were particularly unfavourable to our car and so, the situation for the future is not as bad as it might look from the outside. In winter testing, the car was stronger than this and it was also easier to drive, so the combination of the type of track surface and the tyres exaggerated the difficulties we had in Melbourne. At the start of the weekend we already saw we were going to struggle a bit making the tyres work, but then the situation actually got worse in this respect as the weekend went on. With the Malaysian race weekend starting in just a few days, there is no way we are going to significantly develop our car, but we can improve the way we work with it, based on all the data we gathered in Australia. Even if the car was not so strong in terms of its race pace, we should have been capable of picking up some points, but we didn’t because of reliability issues, so this too is an area we need to watch carefully.

In Melbourne, I was pleased with the way the KERS worked, especially at the start, which was very good and the KERS was very useful for me. I used it all through the race and it helped me defend my position and it was also useful at the restart after the Safety Car period, so I think it’s important to keep working with it.

When it comes to discussing the order for the teams, we don’t even need to mention the Brawns, as they are in a different class at the moment. But I think we are competitive with the rest. As for Malaysia this weekend, while that team will be out in front, I think Ferrari can be much more competitive there. I have arrived in Malaysia now, having left Melbourne on Monday night and I will be doing a bit of outdoor training to get used to the heat and humidity, although to be honest, it doesn’t bother me that much. I hope I have a good weekend and that Scuderia Ferrari does too.

 

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