Brazilian Felipe Massa insisted on Monday he felt no fear as he returned to the track after being seriously injured in an accident at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix by setting the fastest time in pre-season testing.
The Ferrari driver said he was “happy to be back on the track after spending so much time looking at the races on television” as he completed 103 laps to clock a fastest lap of 1 min 12,574 sec.
He led 38-year-old Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, returning to Formula One with Sauber after many years spent as a McLaren test driver, as seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher set the third fastest time.
Wearing a red helmet, the 41-year-old German took his Mercedes team car out for the first time here ahead of his official return to the sport after a three-year absence.
“From a physical point of view, I feel very well,” said Massa, who suffered severe head injuries when he was struck at around 250 kp/h by a spring that flew off Ruben Barrichello’s Brawn car on July 25.
“I completed more than 100 laps, but I could have done double that.
“I’ve already done tests with the old car. Everything was better than what I thought in terms of timing and consistency. For me everything was normal.”
Massa said: “The car seems to be going in the right direction. It’s easier to drive compared to last year, when it was always complicated to find a good balance. But there is still a lot ot do before the first race.”
As for Schumacher, Massa admitted: “It’s a bit strange to see a silver car with a red helmet.”
Massa added that he had joked with Schumacher on the track: “I overtook him, he waved to me!”
The first race of the season is the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14. — AFP