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Massa fears Brawn could dominate season

THIS year's Formula One championship could be over halfway through the season unless teams find a way to stop the incredible new Brawn GP outfit, Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said today.

Ferrari have won a record 16 constructors' championships, including the last two, but Massa said the sport's newcomers appeared to be in a class of their own after a stunning debut in qualifying for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The Brawn pairing of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello left their more-established rivals in their slipstream as they grabbed the first two places on the grid for tomorrow's race.

Massa, who finished second to Lewis Hamilton in last year's drivers' championship, had to settle for seventh place while his team mate Kimi Raikkonen was ninth.

Massa said he was confident Ferrari could close the gap on the other teams just ahead of them but he conceded Brawn seemed to be on a whole new level.

"The difference between third and myself is quite small ... but it was a big difference to the guys in front," he said.

"If they carry on like that they will win the championship in the middle of the year."

Although Melbourne is just the first of 17 races on the Formula One calendar, Massa may be right to be concerned as the Australian Grand Prix has proven a reliable guide to the championship.

The winner of the Australian Grand Prix has gone on to be champion in eight of the last 11 years and the last three seasons in a row.

Despite his fears about Brawn, Massa said he was confident Ferrari could still rise to the challenge.

The Italian manufacturer salvaged just one point from last season's Australian Grand Prix but still won the constructors' title.

"I believe in my team, I trust my team. We know we are strong and we know we can do it," said Massa.

Raikkonen, who won in Australia two years ago, said he was not surprised by Brawn's performance in qualifying but was hopeful of a strong showing from his own team in the race.

"They've been fast all weekend, they've been fast in testing so I don't think it's a big surprise," the Finn said. "I think I should be ok for the race. It's going to be tricky but we can see what we can do.


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