Massa smiling, Hamilton not panicking

Sat, 1 November 2008, 12:07

Oct.31 (GMM) Felipe Massa ended the opening day of practice for Sunday’s championship showdown smiling, but it was also clear that the Lewis Hamilton camp is not panicking.

Ferrari’s Massa, who must win in Brazil with Hamilton lower than fifth to be crowned world champion, was quickest in the morning session at his home Interlagos circuit, and beaten only by Fernando Alonso in the second drizzle-affected 90-minutes of practice

Dominant Chinese grand prix winner Hamilton, on the other hand, was two tenths behind the Brazilian in the morning, before slumping to just ninth quickest in the afternoon

“Our car is much more competitive than in Shanghai and that is for sure a very good start,” Massa enthused Mercedes’ Norbert Haug, however, insisted to German television that McLaren adopted a “very conservative” practice programme for Hamilton, who must finish fifth on Sunday to guarantee his points advantage over 27-year-old Massa “(Ferrari’s) Kimi Räikkönen is two and a half tenths away. That to me seems to be a more realistic comparison,” Haug, Mercedes’ motor racing chief, said

Many observers also pointed out numerous front tyre lock-ups for Briton Hamilton, but it is also true he did not take part in the late-session dash, during which many fast times were set. Haug, noting that Ferrari prefers circuits that use the softer compounds of tyre, admitted: “It is clear that we have a strong opponent.”

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