Felipe Massa carried the momentum from his victory at Valencia onto the Ardenne-lined straights of Monza for testing this week, the grunt of his Ferrari engine giving Lewis Hamilton and McLaren-Mercedes serious food for thought ahead Formula One’s power tracks.
Lewis Hamilton may be prepared to adopt a conservative approach to the remaining six races in the championship, but sitting behind the Ferrari duo and watching them canter off into the distance isn’t going to bring him the title he so craves.
That is the scenario that could unfold at the horsepower-hungry tracks of Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, after Massa lapped quickest on the opening day of testing at the latter, with Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso once again running strongly.
The Brazilian clocked a 1:23.428 around the high speed track, edging out Heikki Kovalainen and Nico Rosberg, with Sebastian Vettel three tenths shy in fourth. Monza should be a McLaren track lets not forget given the MP4-23’s superior ride over the kerbed chicanes, and it’s traction out of them.
Ferrari however had a significant advantage in the speed traps at Valencia and the running at Monza would seem to confirm this. It also adds weight to rumours that the Scuderia have been able to make small innovations within the parameters of the 2008-13 engine freeze better than their rivals. Renault meanwhile appear to have lost out in the arms race.
There are major concerns that the Ferrari 056 power-plant is still a somewhat fragile beast however after Kimi Raikkonen dropped out of the fray at Valencia with an almost identical problem to the one that put Massa into retirement at Hungary.
Nonetheless the performance advantage is good news for Massa who now heads Ferrari’s assault on Lewis Hamilton’s world championship going into the Belgian and Italian Grand Prix.
“I want to keep winning, to keep beating not just my team-mate but the others to,” he said, responding to speculation that Ferrari will have to favour him for the championship.
McLaren meanwhile reckon tyres will be the decisive factor in the forthcoming races since variable temperatures are expected. The MP4-23 has tended to be more effective at generating heat into the Bridgestone rubber over the single lap, while Ferrari – and Kimi Raikkonen in particular – seemed to have struggled in this area.
“We re now entering extremely interesting territory where we wont be entirely certain what sort of temperatures we ll be encountering at some of the future races,” said McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh.
“Monza is likely to be hot and Singapore will probably be cooler, but the races at Spa, Fuji, Shanghai and Brazil could just as easily be sweltering as torrential. Regardless, we will continue to make changes to our car right through until Brazil.”