SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The solid performance by the Williams team in early testing has left Felipe Massa upbeat about the new Formula One season.
The Brazilian driver had the second-best time in last month's tests at Jerez and said the "good start" could play to his advantage when the season gets underway in Australia in March.
"It always helps to start well, especially now that we have a completely different car, which requires a completely different driving style," Massa said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Testing is seen as crucial this year as significant rule changes have been implemented, including a switch to a turbo engine and more sophisticated energy recovery systems.
Debuting with Williams after eight years with Ferrari, Massa was clearly looking forward to making a fresh start.
"I'm really motivated, this is a special moment for me," he said. "I changed to a team that welcomed me with open arms. I needed this change and I think the team needed too."
Massa remained cautious, however, saying that the car's full potential won't be known until the first race starts. Car designs needed significant aerodynamic alterations compared to last year, with reliability and fuel consumption likely to play a big part in races.
"I think there's a lot to learn with the car and a lot has to be done to make the car improve," Massa said. "It's hard to say right now how good we will be. Usually, in the first races it will be difficult just to finish the race. But it was a good start, I was happy."
He said Mercedes also looked to be in a strong position after the tests, but that Red Bull has a lot of work to do to get its car ready after a series of mechanical difficulties. McLaren's Kevin Magnussen had the best time overall after the four days of testing in Jerez, Spain.
There will be two more test sessions ahead of the March 16 opener in Australia. The next testing period runs from Feb. 19-22 in Bahrain.
Massa said he went to France to visit former Ferrari teammate and seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher, who is recovering from a serious head injury after a skiing accident in the French resort of Meribel on Dec. 29.
"I stayed a long time by his side," said Massa, without providing many details on his condition. "It was good to be there. It looked like he was just sleeping, like anyone of us sleeps. I'm really hopeful that everything will be OK and that he will wake up and recover fully."
Massa said he is getting daily updates on the condition of his "great friend."