VALENCIA // Felipe Massa laid down the gauntlet to new Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso with another dominant day of testing yesterday. There had been rumours ahead of the three-day test that Ferrari had produced a car incapable of returning them to the front of the grid after a difficult 2009 that saw them win only once and finish fourth in the constructors' standings - their worst result since 1993.
But Massa appeared to thwart those suggestions and any fears over his own fitness by spending much of yesterday at the top of the timesheets on his second day of testing ahead of Alonso's first outing in the F10 today. Showing no ill effects from his horrific accident in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix last July, Massa declared himself "fully fit". The Brazilian said: "The car felt much easier to driver compared to last year when it was always difficult.
"The car feels great but there's still a long time to go to Bahrain [race one of the season] so it's difficult to say where we are. "I'm looking forward to seeing Fernando in action. It'll be good to see how he goes." The general expectation is that Massa will be outpaced by the double world champion Alonso over the course of the season, but the winner of 11 grands prix understandably sees it differently.
"We'll see but I'm looking forward to the fight as I'm sure Fernando is," said Massa. Kamui Kobayashi had an impressive debut for BMW Sauber yesterday while Lewis Hamilton, driving the MP4-25 for the first time, appeared to indicate that McLaren will be among the season's front-runners. Hamilton's best lap was more than one-and-a-half seconds faster than test driver Gary Paffett, who was in action for the team on the previous day.
World champion Jenson Button, meanwhile, flew into the circuit ahead of his first test today where he will share the track with Michael Schumacher, who spent yesterday working with his personal trainer. The strugglers of the session appeared to be Renault and Toro Rosso. Toro Rosso had struggled with a gearbox problem on day one and, although team boss Franz Tost confirmed the glitch had been rectified, Sebastien Buemi found little pace from the car at his disposal when he was able to get out on the track.
While Robert Kubica found more speed in his Renault, he was still unable to get within 1.5 seconds of the pace-setters and the Pole looks set for a second difficult season in a row after struggling in 2009 with the uncompetitive BMW Sauber car. Force India are not in action in Valencia, but they announced yesterday that the Scottish driver Paul Di Resta would be their test and reserve driver this season.
Meanwhile, Formula 1's 13 teams have agreed with governing body the FIA to implement two major rule changes for the coming season. A new points system will be introduced whereby the top 10 drivers will be awarded points running 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1. Also, all the drivers who make it to the third qualifying session on the Saturday of a race weekend - the top 10 on the grid - will have to start the race on the tyres with which they qualified.
The FIA said they hoped the new rules would encourage a "race to win" attitude. Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost backed the moves, saying: "The reason for this is that we're pushing for more overtaking manoeuvres. I just hope that these will be a success. I think it's a good decision." The points and tyres rules have yet to take effect although the FIA's World Motor Sport Council looks likely to ratify them in the next 48 hours.