|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Massa needs a repeat win in Bahrain
Alan Baldwin | April 02, 2008 16:41 IST
Ferrari's Felipe Massa needs to repeat last year's dominant victory in Bahrain on Sunday to silence his critics after a poor start to the Formula One season.
While McLaren's Lewis Hamilton leads the standings with 14 points, three clear of Ferrari's world champion Kimi Raikkonen and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, Brazilian Massa has yet to score.
He retired from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and then spun into the gravel after starting on pole position at the last round in Malaysia.
Although Massa has two years of his Ferrari contract remaining, he has had to contend with regular speculation about his future and suggestions that Renault's double world champion Fernando Alonso could be a likely replacement.
While Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo quashed such talk this week, the Italian made clear that he was expecting an improvement at Bahrain's desert circuit.
"Felipe Massa is absolutely not under any scrutiny," he told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport. "In fact, we at Ferrari have the best driver pairing in the world.
"I expect a great race from Felipe in Bahrain after his wonderful qualifying session in Malaysia."
Massa has been in a similar position in Bahrain, with the Brazilian facing stiff media criticism last year after two poor races before winning in Bahrain to put some fire into his championship challenge.
"It hasn't been the start to the season I would have wanted," he said last week. "In the next races I expect to make up all the points I lost in the two grands prix."
Champions Ferrari and Renault are the only teams to have won in Bahrain since the first race in 2004 and the former have plenty of data from winter testing at the Sakhir circuit.
"In Bahrain we will run some new aero parts," Ferrari technical director Aldo Costa said.
"We will continue to keep a close eye on reliability, especially on the engine side, and on this front at the moment we will probably run Massa with the same engine he used in Malaysia, even though we could change it as he failed to finish that race."
Hamilton, winner in Australia but only fifth in Malaysia, was looking forward to his return to Sakhir after finishing runner-up in Bahrain last year.
"I love the Bahrain race, it is one of the ones I really look forward to, like Monaco and Spa," the 23-year-old Briton said in a team preview.
"Last year I had a fantastic race... I took my third podium in Formula One and took the joint lead of the world championship. It was a bit unreal."
Raikkonen, winner in Malaysia, has finished third in three successive Bahrain Grands Prix but hopes to do better.
"Time and again something has gone wrong," he said on the Ferrari Web site.
"Sakhir is one of those circuits where I really want to win. Finally.
"Obviously, we should have speed enough to fight for the top place in Bahrain too. I have a good touch with that circuit and Ferrari has traditionally been strong there."
BMW Sauber, with two second places in a row, will be waiting for any slip-ups from Ferrari or McLaren.
"Now it's the battle between three teams instead of two," Raikkonen said. "This time you really have to fight for every point you get."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage