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Massa determined to maintain China momentum 20 Apr 2011

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 14 April 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 150 Italia.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 16 April 2011 (L to R): Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari with Rob Smedley (GBR) Ferrari Race Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 16 April 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 150 Italia. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 17 April 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 150 Italia.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011

Ferrari have not had the best of seasons so far, with Felipe Massa’s performances in particular coming under the spotlight. Critics have suggested that 2011 is a make-or-break year for the Brazilian’s career with the Scuderia, but in Shanghai he answered those critics by beating illustrious team mate Fernando Alonso to sixth place.

Though he admits Ferrari still have a lot of work to do, both in terms of car and strategy, Massa believes there is no reason he cannot sustain his improved form as he prepares for the first round of the European season, the Turkish Grand Prix, in just over two weeks’ time.

“I had a very good race on Sunday, running strongly and getting involved in a lot of fights,” said Massa, who qualified sixth in China, less than three-hundredths of a second behind Alonso. “The result should have been a bit better than my eventual sixth place, but I was very happy with how it went and I hope I can continue to fight at a higher level for the coming races.”

Massa, who has yet to start higher than sixth this season, conceded that Ferrari need to work on qualifying speed, but insisted the race pace the 150° Italia displayed in Shanghai was reason for optimism at Maranello.

“For sure, we need to qualify better so we can start further forward on the grid which helps in the race, even with the talk of grid position being less important this year,” he said. “In China actually my grid position, sixth, was not too bad and then I gained one place immediately after the start which moved me up to fifth. Most importantly, though, if you look at the pace of the car, it was good enough to allow us to fight with the leaders.

“That meant I had a very interesting race, being able to make up several places because effectively, the car we had in the race was completely different to the one we had the day before in qualifying. It definitely worked well, because I even led the race for a short while at one point and I held a genuine second place for quite some time.”

Tyres were Massa’s ultimate undoing on Sunday, his two-stop strategy leaving him on worn rubber in the latter stages of the race, unable to defend against three-stopping rivals on fresher Pirellis. He doesn’t believe, however, that Ferrari necessarily got it wrong.

“It’s easy to say, having seen how the race evolved, that I should have been on a three stop rather than a two stop strategy, but in fact, I am not completely sure this would have been correct, because the main problem I had was much poorer performance than the other cars experienced on the hard Pirellis, which meant that, when these tyres were fitted, the car had a pace more similar to what we had seen in qualifying and we definitely had more problems than the others. Up until then, the car was quite competitive.”

Pointing out that Mark Webber’s drive from 18th on the grid to third place was in part facilitated by the greater choice of race tyres available to the Red Bull driver thanks to his early qualifying exit, Massa stated that Ferrari must now review their own qualifying strategy - and all other aspects of the Grand Prix weekend

“We are always learning at this stage of the season and we should analyse everything very carefully to see if we should adopt a different approach, maybe modify our qualifying strategy to have some fresher tyres for the race,” he said.

“But after three Grands Prix it is still too early to say what is the best way to work with all these new rules, because in China at the weekend, you saw many different combinations of strategies and tyre usage and many of them seemed to work well. Nothing is one hundred percent clear yet and at Ferrari, we have to work out what is best for our car.”

With three rounds of the season complete, Massa lies sixth in the driver standings on 24 points, just one place and two points behind Alonso.

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