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.
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.
McLaren started the 2012 season as clear favourites, locking out the front row for the season-opening Grand Prix and finishing first and third in the race. Since then, the team from Woking has had a bit of a bumpy ride.
Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning performance to win in Canada, but his results before and after the victory are perhaps more representative of McLaren’s position in the Formula One pecking order. Hamilton’s last six results are eighth (Bahrain), eighth (Spain), fifth (Monaco), first (Canada), retired (Valencia – due to a crash with Maldonado), and eighth (Britain).
At last weekend’s British Grand Prix, Hamilton qualified eighth in wet conditions, and was unable to improve on his starting position in the race. Team-mate Jenson Button finished tenth, simply because the car was not capable of a higher finish.
In short, McLaren’s season has fallen apart quite dramatically.
Hamilton’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of 2012. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh has publicly expressed confidence that his star driver will stay put, but Hamilton himself has said nothing to suggest that he will stay with McLaren. The Hamilton-McLaren partnership won the championship in 2008, but has not finished higher than fourth in a season since then.
Is it time for Hamilton to move on? Media rumours suggest that it may be, with rumblings of a possible connection to Lotus surfacing in the last few days. More likely, perhaps, is a move to Ferrari. Felipe Massa is out of contract with the Scuderia at the end of this season, which raises the question of who will partner Fernando Alonso next year. Mark Webber announced that he had contact with Ferrari, but the Australian decided to remain with Red Bull, which means the second Ferrari drive for 2013 is still undecided.
The only obvious obstacle to Hamilton joining Ferrari is his history with Fernando Alonso. Hamilton and Alonso were team-mates at McLaren in 2007, a season in which there was considerable friction in the team as Alonso suspected the British Hamilton was receiving favourable treatment. Ferrari would have to provide assurance to both drivers that similar conflict would not be possible at Maranello.
There is something to be said for a top driver moving away from a successful team. Fernando Alonso won back-to-back championships with Renault in 2005-2006 before leaving to join McLaren and then Ferrari. Michael Schumacher was similarly successful with Benneton before leading Ferrari’s resurgence in the late 9os. Perhaps Hamilton needs to branch out and make a name for himself that is separate from the McLaren team with which he has so long been associated.
Red Bull have announced that Mark Webber will continue to drive for the team in 2013, following his win at the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Australian is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship and, along with Fernando Alonso, is one of only two drivers to have won more than one race this season. Considering that level of performance, it was only a matter of time before Red Bull moved to secure his services for next season. The contract that has been signed is just for 2013, continuing Webber’s recent trend of making decisions one year at a time.
With this announcement, Red Bull becomes the first of the front-running teams to confirm their 2013 driver line-up. Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, Michael Schumacher at Mercedes and Felipe Massa at Ferrari have yet to announce their plans, creating speculation as to what will happen in those teams.
There has long been speculation that Ferrari will seek to replace Massa for 2013, with Webber rumoured as a possible replacement. Webber confirmed the contact saying, “There were discussions with Ferrari, but my decision was to stay here.”
Now that his immediate future is decided, Webber can get on with the business of trying to become the first Australian to win the World Championship since Alan Jones in 1980.