Ferrari’s Felipe Massa started his Formula One career in the cockpit of a Sauber, and juggled that position with the role of Ferrari test driver before securing a race drive alongside Michael Schumacher in 2006. The Brazilian has been with Ferrari ever since, the high-point of his tenure being 2008, when he lost out on the championship in the final corner of the final lap of the season.
Following his near-fatal accident in 2009, Massa has struggled for form. Although he recovered from his injuries sufficiently to return to full-time racing, the Brazilian has not won a race since the crash. He has been thoroughly outpaced by team-mate Fernando Alonso, which in itself is perhaps not all that surprising, but what has been concerning is just how far behind he has been. In 2011, Alonso won a race and stood on the podium ten times, whereas Massa never finished a race higher than fifth. Currently in 2012, Alonso leads the championship with Massa 14th, 139 points behind his team-mate.
Sergio Perez is young, relatively inexperienced, but obviously talented and hungry for success. Driving for Sauber in only his second season of Formula One, Perez has already stood on the podium twice this year, including a strong challenge for victory in Malaysia that ended in an impressive second place. The young Mexican is currently ninth in the Drivers’ Championship, 14 points ahead of team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. As part of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, it is no accident that Perez is driving for Ferrari-engined Sauber, and he is constantly under scrutiny from the Ferrari team.
If Massa fails to deliver results in the second half of 2012 he is likely to be replaced for 2013. In fact, it is likely that his replacement for 2013 has already been signed. The Ferrari driver line-up is typically announced at the Italian Grand Prix, which this year takes place on 9 September. Could Sergio Perez be revealed as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate for next season? It certainly seems possible. Perez has easily outperformed Massa thus far this season, despite being in an arguably inferior car.
If Perez is going to Ferrari, it is likely that Massa is aware that his replacement has been chosen. If so, then the next race in Belgium could make for some interesting watching. Any over-aggressive driving by Massa when Perez is close on the track could be a give-away, as could any obvious public chats between Alonso and Perez.
Whether or not Perez goes to Ferrari, it seems reasonably certain that someone will replace Massa. It is simply a matter of time before the replacement is revealed.