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About to contest his eighth season with Ferrari, Felipe Massa insists that he is still as eager to succeed as he ever was.
Heading into the 2012 summer break few expected the popular Brazilian to last the season far less be retained alongside Fernando Alonso for another year. However, a second half revival which saw him actually out-pace the double world champion on a number of occasions has led to a revitalised driver whose desire to succeed is as strong as ever.
"It's always nice to start the year in Campiglio," he told the media. "Skiing and seeing everyone smiling is a great prelude to the season and I hope it is also a good sign for a championship in which I want to be a contender.
"I consider what I did in the second half of last year as training for this season and I want to be 100% competitive!" he continued. "It was vital for me to change my approach, not so much in terms of understanding the car better or the tyres, but getting a better understanding of myself, believing in my ability, even when so many people said I'd lost it.
"I took to the track trying to find a sense of calm and especially trying to enjoy myself and that helped a lot in regaining my self-confidence. Today, I feel the fire still burns inside me and I know I can win and be competitive at the highest level, as I have done in the past in my career."
While the revival came too late to prevent Red Bull winning its third successive title, Massa is aware of the job in hand this season and insists he is up to the job.
"I can't imagine a team not wanting two competitive drivers," he said. "We are fighting for two titles and I am sure the team will help me if it turns out that my situation was the same as the one that meant Fernando was a contender these past years. I remember when Kimi was my team-mate and how much we helped one another from one season to the next. It's the same with Fernando, it's team work, while the harmony between us is a help, as it would be in any job.
"In Australia we start over from zero and it will all depend on my ability and on the way the championship pans out. I hope to get off to the best possible start and my aim is always to carry the Brazilian flag onto the highest step of the podium. This year, I am the only Brazilian in Formula 1 and it was an emotional time on the podium in Interlagos last year, hearing the fans cheering my name: it's a sign of the affection and closeness I feel from my country and that is fundamental for me."
Recalling the disappointment last year when the F2012 was clearly not a winner straight out of the box, the Brazilian is philosophical as he looks ahead to the unveiling of the 2013 at the end of the month.
"We must wait and see the new car on track and right from the second test, we will have some indication," he said, "but it won't be until Australia that we will know if we have done a good job.
"Vettel is definitely one of our main rivals, but McLaren also finished last year with a very quick car and the stability of the regulations means they too will be contenders. In any case, I am confident in my team and I am sure Ferrari will be in the hunt."
Check out our Madonna di Campiglio gallery, here.
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