Massa won't 'lift a foot' for Raikkonen
|By Michele Lostia||Wednesday, October 25th 2006, 10:12 GMT|
Felipe Massa believes he has proven critics wrong this season at Ferrari and has warned future teammate Kimi Raikkonen to expect fierce rivalry over the leadership of the Italian team.
Massa has landed the 2006 race seat alongside Michael Schumacher after fellow countryman Rubens Barrichello left the team to join Honda.
But Massa's contract was for one year, and few believed a year ago that he would land a longer term contract by the end of the season.
With third place in the final championship standings and with two wins - including an emotional home victory at Interlagos last weekend - Massa believes he has vindicated himself and will begin next season on equal footing with Raikkonen.
"At one point, everyone was saying I would leave Ferrari after just one year," Massa told reporters. "Everyone said the 2007 drivers would be Michael and Kimi.
"Well, I knew that the first year at Ferrari would be apprenticeship, that I would be the second driver.
"But I closed the gaps that needed to be closed, and I don't think I did badly; on the contrary...
"Now we start back from zero: the team game has ended, and I don't think I'll lift my foot off the throttle to let Kimi through."
Massa, who yesterday received a medal for merit in sports from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, added that the onus is on Raikkonen to assert himself within Ferrari.
But the Brazilian admitted he looks forward to battling with the Finn.
"[Kimi] is a fine driver, but he arrives in a new team, and it will first be up to him to conquer the team," Massa stated. "It will be a great battle, but fair."
Meanwhile, Raikkonen himself doesn't seem too worried about inter-team battles at the Scuderia and said the only thing that matters is how fast the 2007 car will be.
"I expect a good season," the Finn said after Sunday's race. "It's too early to make exact predictions, but seeing the speed shown by Ferrari here at Sao Paulo, I hope they'll be able to maintain it when I get there."