Felipe Massa is in something of a predicament. He is driving for the most illustrious team in Formula One, and yet they are talking to other drivers about the possibility of replacing him for 2013.
Massa joined Ferrari in 2006 to partner Michael Schumacher, and finished third in the championship, behind champion Fernando Alonso (now Massa’s team-mate) and then team-leader Schumacher. 2007 saw Massa finish fourth, behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and the McLaren pair of Hamilton and Alonso. 2008 was so very nearly Massa’s year, as he crossed the line in Brazil as World Champion, only to have it snatched away by Lewis Hamilton who passed Timo Glock in the final corner of the final lap to take the title by a single point.
In 2009, Massa suffered a near-fatal accident in Hungary that left him with devastating head injuries and put him out of action for the second half of the season. Returning in 2010, he was not quite on the front-running pace, but still stood on the podium five times. 2011 was an appalling year for the Brazilian, as he failed to finish higher than fifth for the entire season, while Alonso in the other Ferrari won the British Grand Prix and stood on the podium ten times.
Given his dismal form last year, it is likely that Massa will be replaced for 2013. Mark Webber recently confirmed that Ferrari had contacted him about the second seat at the famous Italian team, but he turned it down in favour of staying with Red Bull. Ferrari must surely be talking to Lewis Hamilton, who is out of contract with McLaren at the end of this season, and they may be thinking of Sergio Perez, who has impressed at Sauber this season.
Massa has, to an extent, recovered his form in the last few races. He was strong in Monaco, and again at the British Grand Prix, where he finished fourth – his best result since 2010. If he can continue his upward trend and deliver the results expected of him as a Ferrari driver, then it is possible that he could retain his drive with Formula One’s most famous team.
But if not, then where does that leave him?
Red Bull’s line-up for 2013 is already confirmed as unchanged. There is no news yet on McLaren’s driver pairing, with Lewis Hamilton’s future undecided, although there have been no rumours of a possible Massa move to the team from Woking. Mercedes seem to be hoping for a contract extension for Michael Schumacher, and appear to be looking at the likes of Paul di Resta to replace the German if he retires. Lotus are in the first year of the Raikkonen-Grosjean partnership, which looks unlikely to be broken up in a hurry.
Those are the front-running teams. Behind them are the midfield, including Force India, Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso, and behind them still are the backmarkers. After almost winning the championship for Ferrari, would Massa be happy to be in a car that is not capable of scoring points? Surely not.
One option that has been taken up by Massa’s countryman, Rubens Barrichello, is Indy racing. Single-seater racing in the United States is arguably a much friendlier environment than Formula One – which is known for its cut-throat competition – and Massa has long been perceived as perhaps too “nice” to be F1 World Champion. There is certainly support for the idea of a move to Indy in social media, with the topic coming up fairly regularly on Twitter.
Massa’s best bet, fairly obviously, is to remain at Ferrari. But in the event that he does not retain his seat at the Prancing Horse, Indy racing could be a suitable destination for the popular Brazilian.