FUJI SPEEDWAY — Felipe Massa and his Ferrari team will be bidding for an overwhelming one-two triumph in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Mount Fuji as they try to rein in McLaren and Lewis Hamilton. The ‘scarlet scuderia’ need a victory to boost their confidence and revitalise their challenge for this year’s Formula One world championship. Massa, whose hopes of lifting the title suffered a setback when the team spectacularly bungled a pit-stop while he was leading the Singapore Grand Prix, said he remained positive.
“When you consider the championship, like I said in Singapore, it depends how you look at it: a seven-points gap can be a lot or it can be a little,” said the Brazilian.
“If you look at what happened to me in Singapore where my gap went from one point to seven so suddenly, then you have to consider it could easily go the other way as well.
“The most important element to consider is that we have a very good car. Without that, my chances would be much smaller. “We have two good cars and we can try and get both of us to finish ahead of our rivals. It can be done and we need to think positive and we need to keep fighting to the last race. “So, the motto for the rest of the season has to be look ahead and don’t give up.” Massa’s Singapore setback has left him seven points behind championship-leading Hamilton with three races remaining. For Hamilton, this lead means that he can, in theory, finish second behind Massa in Japan, China and Brazil and lift the title by a single point.
The 23-year-old Englishman admitted he drove cautiously and with the championship in mind when he finished third in Singapore after Massa had lost his lead.
“Singapore was a good learning experience: there was less pressure to achieve a victory because of the unusual circumstances, which meant I was actually able to start thinking of the world championship,” he said. “I hate driving for points, but I think we can all see the benefit of that approach at the moment.”
Last year, in teeming rain, Hamilton delivered one of the finest and most thrilling wins of his fledgling career at the 4.5-kilometres track.
“I love Japan. Last year might have been difficult because of the wet weather and the poor visibility, but I actually really enjoyed that weekend,” he said. With the title race boiled down to a duel between Massa and Hamilton, their respective teams are under pressure to produce competitive cars and near-perfect team performances.
Ferrari team president Luca de Montezemolo believes the team can bounce back with defending champion Finn Kimi Raikkonen rediscovering his form to back Massa’s bid for glory.
Raikkonen has failed to score any points since the Hungarian Grand Prix, but di Montezemolo is sure that the reigning champion will deliver.
“I’m sure Kimi has understood this moment,” said di Montezemolo. “Besides, he is not a rookie nor a former star.
“We are talking about the reigning world champion, a driver who, despite a broken exhaust in Magny-Cours, did an extraordinary race. Massa told me that without that problem he would never have beaten him.
“Kimi is brave and always works for the team. In the last three races, he’ll have to demonstrate to everyone the effects of being a champion by helping the team and Massa. It’s clear we need him at 100 percent.”
And McLaren will need their second driver, Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen, just as much and he is hoping for another dazzling race on the track where last year he claimed his first podium finish in Formula One.