Ferrari's Felipe Massa faces the new Formula One season with optimism but a fear of new teammate Kimi Raikkonen, the Brazilian admitted today. Speaking at Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's annual ski meeting at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy, the Brazilian pointed out that he has aged a lot and calmed down, and psychologically, faces the new ski season with the benefit of experience.
Massa revealed that Ferrari have made major technical changes throughout the car for the new season. "We've tested new suspension, there's a new gearbox. All us drivers have made technical requests and there are many interesting solutions, many things are going to make the difference so the car is totally different to 2006 which is good, it will be a competitive car. I hope we will win at the start of the championship."
Massa said that following a successful 2006, he was looking forward to making further progress in 2007. "I was third in the championship and fought to the end for the World Championship, so it was very positive. I learned a lot, I have grown a lot. I am very motivated. I had many satisfactions in 2006: my first podium, I won two races, it was very important to win Brazil, it was probably the best moment of my life, and I hope to take further steps forward in 2007, fighting for victories from the start."
He also said that he had good feelings about his new teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who replaces the outgoing Michael Schumacher. "He's arrived with his feet on the ground," said Massa. "He wants to know about the team and the people in the team, so it's positive. It's important to have a good feeling between us.
"It's true that Kimi is very important for the team, and expectations are high. He has shown to be fast but he hasn't won a World Championship. There are two young drivers in the team who want to win and no World Champion so we will be treated equally. It will be the same for both drivers.
"I see myself in a good situation, in the right place at the right time. The team treats me as I want to be treated and I hope I can be competitive right from the start and that everything works perfectly from the start."
But when Felipe was asked who he feared most at the start of the season, Raikkonen was at the top of the list with the current World Champion. "Fernando Alonso and my teammate will both be very strong. I will have to work with one of my chief opponents but it's important for the team to have two drivers to fight for the team. Then there are others drivers: Button perhaps, the BMW drivers, Red Bull, for which there is a question mark, and what are Renault going to do?"
Felipe admitted that he learned a lot from his outgoing teammate, multi-World Champion Michael Schumacher. "I learned in every area; starting with driving: when to push, when to be conservative, how to view the race and what's happening, the whole scenario. I grew up a lot during the (last) year. And he was very very important on the technical side: how to work with the people, how to set up the car. He was definitely a big teacher and he will be very useful in the future because of his experience.
"He is a very intelligent driver with great experience, so Michael Schumacher could be very useful for both drivers and technicians. He could help a lot of people. But it's really interesting for us drivers. Formula One without Michael Schumacher loses a lot. Michael beat all the World Championship records. The sport has lost a lot and it's strange not to have Michael around but that's life. After a while the focus changes. Formula One loses without him but there are new drivers. Fernando Alonso is now the man we have to focus on. I hope other drivers will do what Michael has done."
Finally, Massa was under no illusion that the loss of team members Ross Brawn (technical director), Paolo Martinelli (engine) and Rory Byrne (chassis) would make much difference from a technical point of view. "I think yes, we will still be competitive and I hope yes. Even with Ross, Martinelli and Byrne, things had changed already in 2006. Mario Almondo (new technical director) was extremely useful and has worked a lot, so the team isn't really changing, it is the same as it was, the usual Ferrari."