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Underfire Ferrari driver Felipe Massa claims that a new approach to the way his F2012 is set up is responsible for his revival in form in recent races.
Having clearly struggled in the opening races, leading to media speculation that he could be dropped mid-season, in Monaco and Canada Massa has looked more like his old self, not only bringing his Ferrari home in the points but finally making it through to Q3, having failed in the first five races.
The popular Brazilian is in no doubt as to where the improvement has come from. "I'm much happier, because I can drive the F2012 much more in the way I like now," he says. "This means I am much more pleased with my driving, and with the balance of the car and the pace I can run at. When that happens you feel good and for sure, all the modifications and updates introduced on the car helped in this process, but also important was the way we worked on the set-up with my engineers. We changed many things in terms of the balance and found a good direction that suits me."
Asked if he is going in a different direction to his team-mate in terms of set-up, he replied: "I think so, not totally, but certainly we are working in a different way. Every driver has his own style, the way he turns the steering wheel, or uses the throttle pedal and if you don't feel comfortable with something then it definitely doesn't help. You know how it is with Formula 1 and in fact, not just Formula 1 but all sports at the top level, it involves working on the very small details. When something is not working for you, you move away from the right direction and lose performance, as you are not operating at 100% yourself."
The Brazilian admits that he is also delighted with his team's incessant development programme. "For sure, we have many new parts, compared to the beginning of the season when we were far from how happy with our development. In the last three races, things have started to move much more in the right direction, with the right level of development producing a good level of performance. We have seen that in Barcelona, Monaco and Canada and from now on, I know there are many more updates coming and I expect that improving trend to continue."
More than most, the 2012 Pirelli tyres have proved something of a conundrum for Ferrari, particularly the harder compounds. "Certainly, if we could choose, we still prefer soft tyres," he admits. "This year the tyres are much softer than last year, but anyway this year's car struggles much less than in the past when it comes to bringing tyres up to temperature quickly. So, running the Medium and Soft this weekend, should be fine for us.
"If you look in Montreal, even if our top speed was not so good, neither was that of other top teams such as McLaren and Red Bull and even Mercedes," he adds, referring to one the F2012's true weaknesses. "However, in Canada, we were still able to overtake cars in a conventional way, cars that in the past we had struggled to overtake with DRS. This shows the other teams have changed their approach and we have also improved our top speed as well."
Looking ahead to this weekend, Felipe is one of the few fans of the Spanish street track. "I like the track and even if people say it's a street circuit, it's not, because the major part of it is more like a permanent circuit, quite wide and not too tight. It always puts you in a positive frame of mind coming to a place where you have won before. So, I hope we can have another good weekend this time, especially given the fact our car is now more competitive in the races and also in qualifying, because we know how important your Saturday afternoon performance can be for the Sunday. You can overtake at Valencia, especially with the DRS, but starting from the front, being able to run at your own pace immediately right from the beginning, changes everything. It means you don't get stuck behind cars that are quick in qualifying but slower in the race, which can carry a high price."
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