Felipe Massa is driving for Ferrari in 2013, after securing a one-year contract extension towards the end of 2012. It will be the Brazilian’s eighth season with the team, and his fourth alongside double world champion Fernando Alonso. If it does not go significantly better than the last two years, it could also very well be his last year with the Prancing Horse.
Massa joined Ferrari in 2006 to partner Michael Schumacher. The Brazilian had an impressive season, finishing third in the championship just behind his team leader. 2007 saw Massa finish fourth, behind the McLaren pair of Hamilton and Alonso, while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen took the title. 2008 was very nearly Massa’s year, as he lost out to Lewis Hamilton by a single point at a thrilling season finale in Brazil.
In 2009, Massa suffered a near-fatal accident when a spring detached itself from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn car and hit Massa on the head. He spent some time in critical condition in hospital, but spent the remainder of the season recovering before re-joining his team at the start of 2010. Unfortunately, since then Massa has not found the form he had displayed before his 2009 accident, which has frequently led to speculation over his future.
In 2010, Fernando Alonso lost out to Sebastian Vettel in the championship at the final round in Abu Dhabi, after winning five races during the season in a competitive Ferrari. Massa scored no victories in 2010 although he did feature on the podium five times, and finished a massive 108 points behind his team-mate. 2011 went from bad to worse for the Brazilian, and he ended the season without finishing a race higher than fifth and with less than half the points of his team-mate.
2012 could easily have been Massa’s last year at Ferrari. He performed dismally in the first half of the season, although that was partly due to the lack of performance of his car, but that didn’t explain how he managed to be 139 points behind Alonso by the mid-season break. At that point, Massa’s time at Ferrari looked like ending at the end of the season, and the media was flooded with speculation over the identity of his replacement.
But Massa was determined to keep his place at Ferrari, and he began to deliver results. In the six races after the break, Massa narrowly outscored Alonso, and he looked a completely different driver to the man who had struggled so much earlier in the year. For the rest of the season, he dutifully played the part of number two to Alonso, letting his team-mate through on a few occasions to ensure that Alonso had a shot at the title. It very nearly paid off, and Alonso finished just three points behind world champion Sebastian Vettel. Massa was a distant seventh in the standings, but that does not do justice to his recovery in the latter part of the year.
Ferrari traditionally announce their driver pairing for the following season at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. In 2012, the team delayed the announcement to give Massa more time to prove himself, which he duly did to the satisfaction of team management. Massa was retained for another season, but his new contract runs only to the end of 2013. If he is to stay past the end of this year, he will need to deliver results throughout the season to demonstrate that he is worthy of a place in Formula One’s most famous team – and that of course means he must win races, something he has not done since 2008.
Massa is a capable driver. That much was made clear in 2008 when he crossed the line in Brazil as world champion, only to have it snatched away by Lewis Hamilton who made up a position in the last corner of the last lap. Massa has won 11 races and started from pole position 15 times in his 11 year career. But past results and potential are no longer enough to secure a place at Ferrari. Massa must make himself indispensable to Ferrari, and to do that he must win races in 2013. If not, his time at Ferrari will surely come to an end.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has expressed his joy at being re-signed by Ferrari for 2013, after the Brazilian’s contract extension was announced today:
“I am very happy to have reached this agreement … Ferrari is my racing family and throughout my entire time in Formula 1, I have always driven cars powered by engines built in Maranello: I can’t see myself driving cars propelled by anything else! First and foremost, I want to thank President Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali, who had faith in me and who have always supported me, even at the most difficult moments. The team and also all the fans can rest assured that I will do all in my power to help the Scuderia reach the targets it sets itself each year.”
Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali had hinted strongly at Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix that an agreement was imminent, and his comments following the successful negotiations reveal his satisfaction with the continuing team-driver relationship and perhaps also some relief that the decision to retain Massa was, in the end, not as difficult as it might have been:
“We are pleased to have extended our relationship with Felipe for a further year … He has been part of our family for over a decade and has shown, expecially in this recent part of the season, that he is once again competitive at the highest level, which is what is expected of every driver who gets behind the wheel of a Ferrari. We have always supported Felipe, even in the most difficult moments of his career and we are certain of his worth and are sure he will know how to repay the confidence this renewal proves we have in him.”
Massa is currently in his seventh season as a Ferrari driver. In his time at Maranello he has won 11 races and finished second in the 2008 World Championship after arguably the most thrilling season finale in Formula One history. He now has another chance to target Championship glory with Formula One’s most famous team.
After months of speculation over his future, Felipe Massa has been confirmed at Ferrari for the 2013 season. The Brazilian will continue to drive alongside Spaniard Fernando Alonso.
During 2011 and the first half of 2012, it was generally assumed that Massa would not be retained by Ferrari past the end of his contract in 2012. However, the team has resolutely stood by their driver, and he has shown their faith in him to be justified with a string of strong performances in the last five races.
Massa’s contract extension is for one year, which suggests that there could be a change in the driver line-up at the end of 2013. Rumours of a move by Sebastian Vettel to the famous Italian marque from 2014 have been prevalent for some time. Vettel’s current contract with Red Bull expires at the end of next season.
With his immediate future now secure, Massa can focus all of his attention on the track in the last four races of the season. Ferrari are still in with a good chance of winning both the Drivers’ (with Alonso) and Constructors’ Championships, and Massa will be crucial to the success of both campaigns.
Felipe Massa has been under pressure to deliver results, after spending some time in the shadow of his team-mate. And, finally, at Monza this past weekend, the Brazilian started to show what he can do.
From the first practice session on Friday, Massa was within a few hundredths of a second of Fernando Alonso in the other Ferrari. Saturday’s qualifying saw Massa ahead of Alonso for the first time this season, and although that was largely due to an issue with Alonso’s rear suspension, Massa’s third place on the grid was probably the maximum the car was capable of anyway.
A superb start saw Massa rocket past Jenson Button and challenge Lewis Hamilton for the lead into the first corner. Massa couldn’t quite make the move stick, but ran second until Alonso eventually passed him (Massa made no attempt to hinder his team-mate’s progress in the interests of Alonso’s title bid), and and fell back another position when Sergio Perez passed both Ferraris. Massa finished fourth, nine seconds behind his team-mate.
The result equals Massa’s best of the season (he was fourth at Silverstone) and is his third points finish in succession. He has been in desperate need of consistent results and they are beginning to materialise. If this trend continues, Ferrari will start to feel pressure to re-sign him for next season. However, considering that it is already September and Ferrari have likely been talking seriously to other drivers, it may already be too late.
Felipe Massa has not given up hope of retaining his seat at Ferrari. When asked about his future at Maranello, the Brazilian indicated that he “didn’t sign anything for next year yet but I think we have the possibilities to sign”, and cited improvements in qualifying as his immediate goal on the track.
Ferrari typically announce their driver line-up at the Italian Grand Prix. This year, the team has announced that it will delay the announcement, as decisions are still being made. That suggests that Massa is still being considered as a race driver for 2013.
Mass is currently in his seventh season at Ferrari, which makes him one of the team’s most experienced drivers. In his time at Maranello, Massa has come very close to winning the World Championship in 2008, had a near-fatal accident in 2009, won 11 races, stood on the podium 33 times and taken 15 pole positions. His contribution to Ferrari’s glittering history is significant, and therefore any decision to replace him would be a difficult one for the team management to make.
Aside from the last race at Spa (where Alonso was taken out of the race in the first corner), Massa has so far failed to finish or qualify ahead of his team-mate this season, which is a record he will be very keen to correct. Although he has shown signs of a return to form, most notably at Monaco where he was quick throughout the race, Massa has been consistently slower than Alonso throughout the year.
If Massa is to retain his seat at Ferrari, his immediate plan must surely be to close the gap to his team-mate. Alonso is showing what the car can do. Massa, at least from the spectator perspective, is not. He needs to find the speed that was so evident when he was a title contender in 2008, otherwise Ferrari will have no choice but to replace him.