Massa planning memorable effort for Ferrari
Two weeks after watching a seemingly-formidable Sebastian Vettel drive to yet another victory for Red Bull, Felipe Massa and his Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso want to finally give Italian fans something to shout about.
In the last European race of the season, this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Brazilian Massa and the Spanish two-times champion will also be hoping for some hot weather at the old Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
They know that high temperatures will favour not only the conditions for the tifosi, but also for their tyres’ performance in what is expected to be another close fought contest between the champions Red Bull and their nearest rivals McLaren and Ferrari.
“This is, of course, a very important weekend for us,” admitted Massa.
“But not in the sense of it being a last chance for us this year — or anything like that.
“But because we really want to produce a great result for ourselves, for the team and most of all for the fans.
“Spa was not fantastic for us and the cold weather accentuated our tyre problems, but this weekend, we have the same tyre compounds but hopefully much hotter weather. We will need a car with good top speed.”
Massa, without a win this year, added: “Monza is our last weekend of racing in Europe this year and, because this season has not gone so well for us, it will be even more important to do our job perfectly and try and get the result that we and all the tifosi want and deserve.
“Like all the teams, we will have a low down-force set-up unique to Monza, with small wings — and in free practice you need to make sure the car is well balanced with good traction to pull out of the slow chicanes and that it is able to deal with jumping the kerbs, which is vital for a quick lap time, especially in qualifying.”
Massa forecast a weekend of excitement for the spectators.
He said: “I think we will see a lot of overtaking, because of the high speed nature of the track and the fact we will have two zones where we can use the DRS (Drag Reduction system).
“I’m not saying it will be an advantage to be second coming into Parabolica on the last lap to overtake the car in front!
“Obviously, if you have a good car, it’s probably a better strategy to pass before then and pull out a gap that is bigger than one second.
“However, if you are fighting right down to the last lap, well, that could be the case, which would make for a very exciting race.”
Massa and one of his friends and rivals Lewis Hamilton are both sure to be looking for as many passing moves as they can with the McLaren driver keen also to wind up the European section of the calendar with a win.
And he was boosted this week by the support of his team, making clear that they have no intention of asking him to rein in his natural aggressive driving style in a bid to overhaul defending champion Vettel and Red Bull with more cautious tactics.
McLaren’s chief engineer Philip Prew said: “Lewis has had an up and down season and is a great driver who has won races this year and every year that he’s driven for McLaren — and he’s always pushing very hard.
“He obviously came into the season with great hopes of winning the championship and obviously it’s going to be very difficult to achieve that from here.
“He’s pushing hard — which brings its consequences of high risk — and I think that’s what we’re seeing.
“We will not ask him to change because Lewis has a very charging and aggressive approach and we fully support that. It’s won him championships and that’s our intention. In the end, Lewis is a very clever guy and he’s a very good racing driver, and he will reflect on the difficulties that he’s had this year and he will come back stronger.”
As the opposition prepared on Wednesday, it was easy for outright leader Vettel to sit back and take it easy.
He only needs to coast through the final seven races of the season to retain his crown, but has said he intends to attack too.
An Italian Grand Prix full of action lies in prospect.