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Tag Archive | Massa

2013 will make or break Massa’s Ferrari career

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.

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Massa: “Ferrari is my racing family”

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.

Massa stays at Ferrari for 2013

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.

 

Massa shows form at Monza

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.

Massa hopes to stay at Ferrari

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.

Massa vs Perez

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.

Where to for Massa?

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.

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