Felipe Massa has been facing the real possibility of losing his seat at Ferrari, and under pressure from team management to demonstrate his value on the track. He is rising to the challenge superbly.
Massa was comprehensively out-driven by his team-mate Fernando Alonso in 2011, and that trend continued in the first half of 2012. In the 11 races before the mid-season break, Massa failed to outscore Alonso even once, and he certainly did not look a match for his team leader. Only at Monaco and Silverstone did Massa deliver anything resembling drives worthy of a place at Ferrari, and by the time the teams took a four-week holiday after Hungary, it was generally assumed that Massa’s days at Maranello were numbered.
Massa, however, clearly had other ideas. He came out fighting in Belgium after the break, and has delivered four consecutive points finishes, including second place in Japan and fourth at Monza (where he dutifully let Alonso past, despite running ahead for much of the race). In the four races since racing resumed, the Brazilian has scored 44 points, 14 more than his team-mate. Only Sebastian Vettel (68) and Jenson Button (55) have scored better over the same period.
Massa is, mathematically at least, the last of the drivers still in with a chance of this year’s title. To achieve that, he would have to win all of the remaining races with Alonso and Vettel failing to finish every time and most of the points positions going to the mid-field runners. So despite it being mathematically possible, it is clearly not realistic for Massa to pursue the title. But he does have the opportunity to help Fernando Alonso win the Drivers’ Championship and – perhaps more relevant to his desire to remain at Ferrari – could help his team clinch the Constructors’ Championship.
Ferrari are currently third in the points table, 61 points behind championship leaders Red Bull. While that is a significant gap to close, it is more than possible in the five remaining races. If Massa can continue to deliver podium finishes, he will be giving his team a reasonable chance of championship glory. It would certainly be a good way to convince his employer to retain him for next season.