Motorsport.com columnist Felipe Massa feels the Japanese GP has boosted Williams in its quest for fifth place in the F1 2017 constructors' championship - but he expects a stern challenge from Renault over the remaining rounds.
The overall feeling coming away from the Malaysia and Japan double-header was a positive one. Williams Martini Racing has strengthened its fifth position in the constructors’ championship, and this is ultimately the main goal for myself and the team in the final races of the year.
At Sepang we got two cars home in the points, while at Suzuka we managed to bring home an important 10th place – which was crucial because our direct rivals did not score.
The Japanese GP was a very difficult race though. After a strong start, I struggled a lot to keep up the pace I had had in the first 10 laps. At the time I didn’t know why, but after the chequered flag the team found that I had lost some aerodynamic performance, which accounted for 25 points of downforce.
It was good news to get to the bottom of my sudden loss of pace, because things had been really hard during the race – and it was only some strong defensive driving at the end which helped me hold back Fernando Alonso for 10th place.
We gained one point, but I know we could have got more if there had been no problems with our car. But it was a positive feeling knowing that we had made a step forward, as all our direct competition, apart from Haas, did not make it into the points.
The final fight for fifth place in the standings is getting more tense and compelling. Our expectations are for four races where the goal will be to deliver both cars in the points.
That job must start from Austin, which is a track that shares many characteristics with Japan and Malaysia so it is somewhere that we can do well.
The strengths we have with our package compared to other cars are small though, so we have to get everything right.
While Toro Rosso are closer to us in the points standings, it is actually Renault that I am keeping a watching eye on. The team is in great shape at this stage of the season, but is suffering from reliability issues.
There will be a novelty for the team in Austin, too because Carlos Sainz is joining. He is a great driver who can definitely make a good contribution. However, we are ready and our team has reasons to feel encouraged.
In Japan, we brought a new rear wing to the track that worked very well, and we will do everything we can to keep optimising our package for the final races of the season.
Speaking from my personal perspective, I feel fit, motivated and I am at a good time in my career. I am happy with the car and the team, and my only regret this year is losing out on 30 points because of some unlucky circumstances.
Williams knows exactly what I can bring to the team, and if they ask me to stay in 2018, then I am ready and happy to continue my adventure with the usual levels of enthusiasm and motivation.