With less than a month to go until the opening race of the 2013 Formula One season, there is still plenty of preparation and arduous testing for the teams and drivers to endure, before the new campaign begins at the Australian Grand Prix in March.
The test session at Jerez earlier in this month, might not have been a clear giveaway for the main title protagonists for the new season, but it did give an early indication of the teams and drivers who might overachieve and those who could be left off the pace for the 2013 challenge.
While the four day test were only designed as a warm-up for the drivers, and while it lacked a full running order it still lead to some strong early performances. One of which came from Brazilian driver, Felipe Massa, who has been feeling the pressure of success in recent years at Ferrari.
Piloting the new F138 for the first time, the 31-year-old went to the top of the time sheets on the third day of testing, eventually setting a time which would remain unsurpassed by any of Ferrari’s chief rivals during the course of the week.
While the test session in Jerez was only designed as a precursor to the main test event, scheduled to take place in Barcelona. The results for Felipe Massa will be a substantial confidence boost after a difficult 2012 campaign.
The results of the pre-season test session are unlikely to divulge who will be the new world champion when the chequered flag drops in November, but it has at least given some indication that Ferrari, who tested at Jerez with Felipe Massa as the sole participant, could still challenge for honours in the new season.
This should give the 31-year-old Brazilian a substantial confidence boost after a year which tested his resolve with the Italian team in 2012. Piloting the new F138, Massa did appear to have more control over the car at Jerez, often carrying more speed through the corners when compared to his chief rivals, including Red Bull and McLaren.
The Jerez test will give little indication about who will be challenging for the opening race victory in Melbourne, however it did suggest that in the hands of Felipe Massa, the new F138 car seemed far more stable than its predecessor the F2012.
After speculation over the winter break that Massa might be replaced at Ferrari by Sebastian Vettel, or leave the sport altogether, his performance in Jerez will have given the Brazilian driver a significant confidence boost ahead of the opening race in March.
The strong performance at the pre-season test session, could also re-kindle the spark that made Massa such a revered and respected driver in the sport when he joined Ferrari back in 2006, with the suggestion that the Brazilian could finally challenge for the one title that has eluded him over the past eleven years, a drivers crown.
His battle for the championship with Lewis Hamilton in 2008 was arguably the Brazilian’s peak performance with Ferrari, and despite losing the title on the final lap at Brazil, the 31-year-old still looks determined to challenge his younger opponents.
174 race starts, 15 pole positions and 11 race victories only tell a small proportion of Felipe Massa’s career in the sport over the last 11 years. Since his near fatal crash in 2009, Massa has always been trying to find the same form and the same consistent rhythm, which brought the Brazilian so agonisingly close to a solitary drivers’ title back in 2008.
While Felipe Massa has almost always been viewed as the ‘second driver’ at Ferrari, in recent years, the insistence on playing as the second fiddle to Fernando Alonso has often been detrimental to the experienced Brazilian.
While many have suggested that 2013 will be ‘make or break’ for the Ferrari driver partnership, it still appears to be an unlikely scenario for the line-up to change at the end of the year. However, one thing does appear certain in 2013, if Felipe Massa really has genuine title ambitions with the new F138, it could prove to be his last chance to prove his potential.
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