March 24th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Felipe Massa is in a quite unfamiliar situation: he has enjoyed an advantage over his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, in qualifying and is currently ahead of the Spaniard in the Drivers' Championship.
Massa has now outqualified Alonso four times in a row - the final two races of 2012 and the first two races of 2013. The fast Felipe Massa who almost won the championship in 2008 seems to be back, and his performances on Saturdays show just how comfortable he is in this year's Ferrari. Qualifying well is the first step towards fighting at the front of the field in the races, something which Massa looks more likely to do this season than he did in a difficult 2012.
In terms of race pace, Alonso had an edge over Massa in Australia, finishing second to Massa's fourth. But today in Malaysia, Alonso retired early after stopping in the gravel of turn 1 when his front wing became lodged under his front tyres. That left Massa to score Ferrari's only points for the day, and he brought his Ferrari home fifth for 10 points which, together with his fourth place in Australia, puts him four points ahead of Alonso in fifth place in the Drivers' Championship.
It's still very early in the season, so the relative positions of the drivers do not mean too much just yet. But Massa will be all too aware that Ferrari have a habit of supporting their leading driver in the championship at a reasonably early stage of the season. If Massa can sustain his advantage of Alonso, he could well find himself fighting for the title with the full backing of the wealthiest and most successful team in the history of Formula One.