Is Felipe Massa Ready To Leave Ferrari?
As the Formula One “silly” season comes around again, and drivers are beginning to sign on the dotted line to new contracts one of the more overlooked rumours this weekend in Japan has been the possibility that Felipe Massa could be ready to leave Ferrari in search of being an out and out first driver.
The Brazilian was drafted into Ferrari and raced as Michael Schumacher’s understudy in 2006. In 2007, he was overshadowed by Kimi Raikkonen who went on to win the title. In 2008, he missed out on the championship by just a single point and 2009 was the infamous year where he was nearly killed. 2010 has been a difficult year for Massa. he had to move aside in Germany, so that Fernando Alonso could win the race in order to help his world championship challenge. It smelt like Schumacher/Barrichello from years before.
At the time Massa accepted the decision, but has become increasingly unhappy both on and off the track. His performances have slid, and he doesn’t look happy in the garage. On Thursday ahead of the Grand Prix, Massa told reporters that he “Didn’t want to be a 2nd driver, only the first driver. I don’t want to be another Rubens Barrichello”. Hastily, the boss of Ferrari Luca di Montezemolo said that he was still a number 1. But how can a team have two number ones? Especially when the other driver is Fernando Alonso. Lets not forget 2007, when Alonso was challenged at McLaren and he didn’t accept it.
Italian Press and the Suzuka paddock have been awash with rumour that he was ready to leave the team. The main teams he is being linked with are Renault, and believe it or not – Force India. The latter statement shows just how far the little team based in Silverstone has come, to attract a driver like Felipe. Word in the paddock is that now Raikkonen has declined Renault, Adrian Sutil will leave Force India and head across to Enstone to partner Robert Kubica. This leaves the Force India door wide open for Scotsman Paul di Resta to take over from Tonio Liuzzi, and Felipe Massa could slot in as the number 1 driver within the team.
So it looks like Felipe may hold the key to the driver market this season. If he leaves, it leaves a completely empty race seat with Ferrari – who could potentially be the drivers championship winning team. Both drivers at Red Bull and McLaren are secure for 2011, so it would be likely to be an outsider driver coming in to the team. They have a range of options. They could select a youngster, one of their young driver programme drivers, but this is highly risky for the team and they would have to be confident that the driver could perform at the highest level straight from the off.
Their other option is to bring in someone experienced. Kimi Raikkonen rejected Renault for the team, as opposed to rejecting the prospect of Formula One. Could he make a sensational come back to F1 with Ferrari? Another possibility could be Michael Schumacher, the tainted son of the Italian team, has allegedly been offered an ultimatum by his Mercedes Benz bosses – perform or face the sack. Returning to Ferrari would guarantee him continued legend status, and almost certainly a competitive car. If Schumacher did leave Mercedes, then Nico Hulkenberg could go across to the all German team – his race seat at Williams is rumoured to be being offered to Pastor Maldonado, the GP2 World Champion.
It could make for an exciting winter season after all!