Massa to continue Ferrari progress

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Felipe Massa would like to forget his effort at last year's Australian Grand Prix. But the Brazilian used that experience as a starting point to go on

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Felipe Massa would like to forget his effort at last year's Australian Grand Prix. But the Brazilian used that experience as a starting point to go on and become key to Ferrari's resurgence in 2007, evening winning two of the last five races. Last year's race was a disaster for Ferrari, when Melbourne was the third race of the season. Massa's lasted less than two turns on the Albert Park circuit and teammate Michael Schumacher crashed on the 33rd lap. "It was a weekend to forget," said Jean Todt, the Ferrari team head. Massa was squeezed on the first lap and ended up in the wall when hit by Red Bull driver Christian Klien, the second time in two weeks Massa's race ended in the opening laps. He finished just 10th in 2005 while with Sauber. Then things changed. He went on to score 80 points to finish a solid third in the 2006 driver's standings behind champion Fernando Alonso and Schumacher. "Hopefully we can take all the bad luck I had in the past into good luck this year," Massa said Thursday on the eve of the first day of practice for the 2007 season opening Australian Grand Prix. "I gained a bit more experience with a top team like Ferrari. It was a great year to learn," he said. "I learned how to be fighting in the front, not just understanding the race." Kimi Raikkonen Now Schumacher has retired, Massa's new teammate is Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferraris have led winter testing with Massa leading the Finn all three days of February's final tests at Bahrain. The expectations are high. "It is normal when you are all the time quick. The winter tests have been very good for us," Massa said. "We were stronger and stronger." But testing can count for nothing if it's not backed up in race competition. "Testing is testing and racing is racing. Now is the time that really counts," he said. "So hopefully we can keep the same direction especially now starting the first race." Raikkonen joined Ferrari from McLaren where he twice finished second in the championship. But after winning seven races in 2005, he failed to win in 2006. Raikkonen's arrival is one of a series of changes for Ferrari. This year Schumacher, technical director Ross Brawn and sporting director Paolo Martinelli are gone from the team. Massa doesn't think that is a problem. "The people who built the car before are the same people that built the car this year. I trust the people. I trust our engineers, I trust the team," he said. "Everyone is 100 percent motivated and are pushing hard to have the good results of the past. Hopefully we can achieve our target even without Michael, without Ross, without Paolo Martinelli and I think the people can do the job." Alonsa joins McLaren Standing between Massa and his 2007 ambitions is two-time champion Alonso, who joins McLaren this year. Alonso knows what it will take for a third consecutive title, which would put him among the elite of the sport. "Everything is important. When we talk about the package, everything is important these days in Formula One," the Spaniard said. "I think the team has to be focused, working very hard all the championship long with no mistakes. "The driver has to do a perfect job in testing, private testing, qualifying and races with no mistakes in 17 races, so it is not so easy sometimes." Alonso predicted car performance and new tires will prove crucial to his team's success, while expecting an Australian GP offering plenty of opportunities. "I think this year we have a very interesting championship _ very open in the first races." Practice The 2007 season features two new 90-minute practices on Friday, with the test drivers allowed only if one of the race drivers is sitting out the session. Further practice will be held Saturday morning before qualifying, when the slowest six drivers are knocked out in two 15-minute periods before the final 10 go all out for pole position. That is unchanged from last year. Sunday's race is 58 laps of the 5.303-kilometer (3.295-mile) Albert Park circuit.