Feb.3 (Reuters) Ferrari unveiled their 2012 Formula One car via the Internet on Friday after their usual glittering launch had been cancelled due to snow in Maranello, where driver Felipe Massa was given a frosty reminder that he must shape up this year.
The Italian glamour team have endured several difficult seasons since Kimi Raikkonen, now back in the sport with Lotus, won their last drivers’ title and helped them to the constructors’ championship in 2007.
They finished third last season with former double world champion Fernando Alonso fourth in the driver standings and Massa a distant sixth as Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull destroyed the field.
Brazilian Massa, who labelled the F2012 “aggressive” because of its radical new look, has suffered two poor campaigns and was warned he must perform this season with his contract up at the end of the year.
“As for Massa, he knows as much as we know that he has to do something great, something better after a not-so-positive season,” Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said in a video link .
“We are offering him the best conditions to do a great job.”
Team principal Stefano Domenicali added: “I’m sure this year, after a difficult season, he will be able to show his value.”
Testing starts next week in Jerez in Spain with the first race of the season in Melbourne on March 18.
Massa, so close to the title in 2008 before being pipped on the last corner by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, has not looked the same driver since being badly injured in a crash at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009.
On Wednesday, he tried to show that the fire was back in his belly after ripping off the F2012’s cover with Alonso.
“Let me tell you that it looks very aggressive, it was something that was part of my dreams,” Massa told the web video.
“It’s a very important year for me and the whole team of course; 2012, this is going to be the victory year. We are going to fight to get the championship back,” he said.
“I really feel focused on winning. There are positive things in my head and I want to finish the championship in a better way.”
There was nothing but praise from Montezemolo and Domenicali for dogged fighter Alonso, who won his two titles with Renault and is now in his third season with Ferrari having narrowly missed out on a third championship in 2010.
“It looks very different actually from what we have seen the last two years,” Spaniard Alonso said. “I’m going to start with the same strength, force and determination. It’s going to be a challenging season.”