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Massa: It's great to be back

NEWS STORY
15/01/2010

While 'new boy' Fernando Alonso was the star turn on Thursday, today it was the turn of Ferrari's other driver, 2008 world championship runner-up Felipe Massa, to meet the press at the team's annual media event in the Dolomites.

"It's great to be back here year after year," said the Brazilian who missed the second half of last season following the horrendous incident which nearly ended his career. "This is the best possible way to start the season, absolutely unique, working and having fun."

Naturally, the assembled reporters wanted to know how Felipe is feeling having only contested a couple of Kart events since that momentous day at the Hungaroring.

"After the accident I never thought I had to stop racing," he said. "In fact, I was convinced that I could be back on the track already in Valencia. Indeed, I once almost fought with my wife because she said I wouldn't race in Valencia.

"The accident hasn't changed anything in my work approach and in my way of thinking," he continued, "because I had to cope with so many difficulties in my life, I always learned a lot.

"I always had lots of support from Ferrari, since when I started racing for this team, but the strength and the availability they showed after my accident was really incredible: I knew that I could count on them, but what they gave me was really exceptional.

Looking ahead to the coming season, he said: "It's still early to say, because I don't know the new car's performance and we don't know where we stand compared to the other teams, I think that it was the right decision to start developing the car mid-season last year."

Asked if his life has changed, now that he is a dad, the Brazilian replied: "The arrival of my son made my life very special, but I haven't changed the way I'm living the races. When I sit behind the wheel I don't think about my family, only when I come back to the garage I remember that I'm a dad now. They say that you lose one second per lap for every child? A champion like Schumacher has won a lot and he has two children..."

And talking of the legendary German driver who at one time was teammate and mentor to the Brazilian...

"Michael is a friend and he was an important teammate for me to grow and improve. We're still friends in life, but on the track he'll be a competitor I have to beat, just like all the others. It's difficult to say if he made the right choice, because I don't know what you feel when you stop racing after a whole life on the track. I think that his comeback will help this sport; he's a great talent and I think that he can be competitive immediately. It will be weird seeing him racing with another team after all the years with Ferrari, although there weren't the possibilities for his return."

Of the new rules for the forthcoming season: "The races without refuelling are an important change. We are working very hard with Shell to improve the consumption as much as possible, without penalising the performance. The race strategy will depend a lot on the position on the starting grid. In certain situations it will be important to be aggressive over the first five laps to gain positions, in others we might need to apply a calmer strategy: obviously it will depend on the circumstances."

Other than new rules, in 2010 Felipe has a new teammate, two-time world champion and a man not known for being the most accommodating teammate, Fernando Alonso.

"During my career I've always had extraordinary teammates," said the Brazilian. "This is what enabled me to learn and to improve, because you can learn a lot from a different driving style, from the way he sets up the car, how he goes into corners and how he brakes. I'm sure that we'll work together very well, because this will help us both and also the team regarding the car's development.

"Naturally we'll both fight to stay ahead, because that's our sport. Fernando is an extremely talented driver and I'll try to help him with my experience in Ferrari. We had a discussion in 2007, after the Nürburgring race, because he accused me of unsporting behaviour: we cleared that, he apologised and that was it. Over the last days we spoke about our ideas regarding the car's development.

Asked about how he finds the Spaniard in comparison to his previous teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe said: "Although I've always worked very well with Kimi I've spoken more to Fernando over the last three days than with him in three years."

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