Massa sets pace, Schumacher sends warning

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Winter break is over and school is back in session at Valencia today as the teams emerged from their hectic fabrication schedules with what they feel are the best cars for the 2010 season. Testing is under way at Valencia and two drivers placed a stamp on the event.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa set the time to beat in Valencia as many were wondering just how the Brazilian would do after his horrendous accident in 2009. There were some doubts to his confidence and abilities for 2010 and Massa was quick to show he is very much back to form by setting the fastest lap.

The other gentleman who placed a large stamp on the day was returning 7-time champion Michael Schumacher. Schumacher set the 3rd fastest lap and looked at ease with the car and looked on pace right out of the box. The German wasted no time signaling all rivals that he is back, on pace and in the pipe, 5 by 5. Schumacher said:

“It was a perfect rollout for the new car today. I felt totally comfortable and really had a feeling that everything was very natural. It felt just like at the very beginning of my career in 1991 when on the first lap, I thought ‘wow that was really fast’ and then on the second lap, I was just extremely excited. I feel like a young boy again and really enjoyed myself out there. We did a good job today, just making a few control checks, and the most important thing was that the car ran reliably. With Nico and I covering 79 laps between us, it was a superb job by the team.

1. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:12.574 102
2. de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari (B) 1:12.784 74
3. M.Schumacher Mercedes GP (B) 1:12.947 40
4. Rosberg Mercedes GP (B) 1:13.543 39
5. Paffett McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:13.846 86
6. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:14.449 75
7. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:14.762 18
8. Kubica Renault (B) 1:15.000 69

The black art of testing is that it is difficult to know just what set up the teams are using or what they are testing. Heavy fuel versus light fuel, tires spec’s etc. That is from an outsiders point of view but I often believe that teh folks in the pit lane have a pretty good idea of what the others are doing and can make their judgments from there. As fans, we must resign ourselves to comments from pit lane and suppositions which, as you know, can be dangerous things.

While team-to-team comparisons are very difficult in testing, even teammate-to-teammate is difficult because they may very well be trying two different set up’s on each car. That being said, Schumacher bested his teammate Nico Rosberg within 20 laps which signals a return of the former champion. The big question now is can he best Hamilton, Alonso or Massa?

While Schumacher may be the big news of the day, I have to admit that I think the big news is the return of Massa. He was very seriously injured and has turned a corner in the last two years as a legitimate contender for the title and today’s performance says he is back and on pace. That, by anyone’s measure, is a good thing.

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