Felipe Massa still believes that Ferrari can fight for a podium finish in the Australian Grand Prix, despite its difficult preseason testing program.
With Ferrari still not at the level it hoped to be with its F2012 as it heads to the first race of the season, technical chief Pat Fry reckoned last week that the outfit would struggle to finish in the top three. Massa, though, is more optimistic, saying he thinks that Ferrari's testing troubles may not be repeated once cars run in anger for the first time.
"It's true that every year we do less testing so it gets more difficult to understand how the situation stands between the various teams," said the Brazilian. "Last year we went very well in the tests then we arrived in Melbourne and we found ourselves a second away from pole position.
"I won't hide the fact that we are not 100 percent satisfied with what we have done in these three test sessions in Spain and I would have preferred to be a bit quicker. We have a totally new car and we must still learn about it and get all its potential out of it.
"I have a very strong team and I have lots of faith in their capacity to be able to develop the chassis during the season. The truth is we will only discover the situation in Australia when we are all in the same conditions – little fuel in the tank and the softest tires on the car.
"Certainly, there are some teams that seem very strong like Red Bull; McLaren and Mercedes and Lotus seems very quick to me. Then there's a group that has gotten closer and will fight within the space of a few tenths with Sauber, Toro Rosso and Force India. Still, I believe that we can fight for the podium; it's the only thought I have in my head. But we only have to wait a few more days to have the answer."
Ferrari's difficulties with its F2012 could not have come at a worse time for Massa, who is hoping that a strong season will help him extend his contract with the team. Despite the situation, Massa says he is not even thinking about his future plans.
"This year is no different than many that I have had in the past. It will be at least the fifth time that I am starting a season without renewing my contract, but that makes no difference to me," he added. "I am working with the aim of extending the relationship with Ferrari that has now lasted for so many years."