Felipe Massa is looking forward to the challenge of trying to go one better in his quest to be the Formula One world champion as the sport enters a new era. The Ferrari driver missed out on the title last year after bad luck and unreliability denied him the title at the expense of British rival Lewis Hamilton.
But speaking as he got to drive the new car that will power his and teammate's Kimi Raikkonen championship challenge for the first time, he said he was excited by the new regulations and the test of improving on a campaign last year that saw him win six races and take six pole positions. Ferrari's new smaller F60 is the key to his hopes and Massa is hoping it will be a pocket rocket - a tiny terror to tangle with the best in a campaign made even more intriguing by changes, such as less testing, slick tyres and aerodynamic regulations designed to create more overtaking on track.
Cute is how he described the car after testing it at the Mugello track for the first time, but he hopes it will be pretty good too in the heat of battle when the season starts in Australia on March 29. "We have always had gorgeous, exciting Ferraris so I was a bit worried about this. Then I saw it and it is beautiful," he said. "Maybe this is not as gorgeous as before, but still looks gorgeous to me. But then, I would rather have an ugly car with high performance.
"The car is completely different to what we were used to up to last year, but I am quite happy to do 100 kilometres and use KERS [the kinetic energy recovery system], which was the most worrying aspect. "In the end, we used it a little to start with and gradually increased the power and this is very positive. I was impressed. "We are at the start of a different cycle in Formula One and it won't be an easy experience, but I am convinced we can be competitive again."
A new car and new season brings fresh hope in his quest to be a world champion. Despite winning the final race of the season in Brazil last November, Massa was left in anguish as Hamilton overtook the Toyota of Timo Glock on the penultimate curve of the wet Interlagos track to finish fifth and earn the priceless extra point he needed to claim his own maiden title. A winter of soul-searching for Massa then? No, as he added: "During the holidays, I had normal thoughts. A desire to work and desire to win.
"If we didn't win the title, it's not because we did not deserve it, it was just not meant to be. You have sad days and good days. "That day was very positive in a way because I won my home race, but also an important day because we learned a lot. This is a reason to be more motivated, to fight and compete. "I am one who looks ahead, not back. There is a positive mood in the team. "I am quite happy with the work the team has done and I hope we keep on improving every week, like we have always done in the good years."