A strong qualifying run has left Felipe Massa optimistic he can get in the middle of the Mercedes battle for the Formula One title.
Massa will start third at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, behind pole winner Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the only two drivers still vying for the championship.
Williams’ gap to the dominant Mercedes at Interlagos was one of the smallest of the year, giving Massa extra confidence going into his home race. His qualifying time was only .224 seconds slower than Rosberg’s. Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas will start fourth on Sunday.
”We have a competitive car,” Massa said. ”I don’t know if we will have the chance to be more competitive than Mercedes tomorrow but I hope we will have the chance to be in front of at least one of these guys.”
A two-time winner at the Brazilian GP, Massa could have finished even closer to the Mercedes if it weren’t for an engine problem that delayed his return to the track for his final qualifying attempt. The delay left him in the middle of traffic and unable to better his time.
”I couldn’t improve my lap time and everybody was improving a little bit on the second set,” the 33-year-old Massa said. ”I was not going to improve maybe enough to beat them, but maybe to get very close.”
Massa has finished on the podium only once this season, at the Italian GP in September. He is eighth in the drivers’ standings thanks to a sequence of poor results in the beginning of the year.
”I will try everything I can for my best race,” Massa said. ”I really hope that it can be possible to have some opportunity, even with these two (Mercedes) guys. I will try.”
Hamilton, a 10-time race winner this year, has a 24-point lead over Rosberg going into the final two races. He can secure his second world championship with consecutive second-place finishes or with a third in Brazil and a second in the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 23.
”We know that this race is very important for us and for me, as a Brazilian,” Massa said. ”I will try everything I can.”
Williams has a remote chance of overcoming Red Bull for second place in the constructors’ championship, but it could also be surpassed by Ferrari.
”We’re in a good position for tomorrow and the car has been performing very well since it hit the track for the first time on Friday,” Williams head of performance Rob Smedley said. ”The race is likely to be very unpredictable, with the weather conditions playing a factor as rain is likely. We therefore need to make sure we do everything correct.”