Two test days into the post-Michael Schumacher era, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has proved the new man to beat at Circuit de Catalunya in the north of Spain.
The Brazilian, who won seven time world champion Schumacher’s last grand prix before he retired last month, told adrivo.com that it feels ‘a little strange’ to be proceeding in the red garage without the great German and the similarly departed technical director Ross Brawn.
In the company of every rival except Spyker, however, 25-year-old Massa led the test field comfortably on Tuesday and Wednesday, even if he explained the feeling of Bridgestone’s harder 2007 tyres as a ‘shock’.
Massa said: “When I joined Ferrari a year ago, no one predicted that I had a good future.
“People said I was the boy who would drive a Ferrari for one year and then go away. Now I feel much stronger.
“This year I showed what I am capable of doing in formula one.”
Despite a rocky start, Massa had a very strong second half of the ’06 season, collecting his first two career victories and three poles.
Massa commented on Wednesday: “I am ready for the next challenge.”
His next challenge is the highly rated Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who will arrive in January to replace Schumacher. But Massa insisted that he is not daunted by the prospect of the so-called 27-year-old ‘iceman’.
“If you drive against Schumacher and show similar pace, it is a good start,” he said.
“Of course Kimi is very strong, he is competitive at every race. I feel very strong too.
“I expect a close fight over the whole year, but I am ready for it.”