There’s a lot of pressure on Filipe Massa at the moment, there’s no doubt about that. No wins since Brazil in 2008 – the same race at which he lost the Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship to Lewis Hamilton by a single point – and no podiums throughout the whole of the 2011 Formula 1 season, the first Ferrari driver to suffer that ignominy for 30 years. Massa now finds himself with zero points from the opening two rounds of the 2012 F1 championship and a whopping 35 points behind his team mate, Fernando Alonso, who won in Malaysia, albeit in unusual conditions, and leads the Championship. As if this wasn’t enough, Massa is in the final year of his contract and his mooted replacement, the Sauber driver Sergio Perez, is driving superbly and has been, by all accounts, extremely impressive.
I think that Massa’s confidence has been shattered by three key factors:
- his last lap Championship loss in 2008;
- his unfortunate accident in Hungary 2009 (where he was injured by a spring that was dislodged from Compatriot Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn); and
- Ferrari’s new focus on Fernando Alonso (No-one is going to forget “OK, so, Fernando is faster than you” in a hurry).
So what next for Massa? Ferrari tell us at every possible opportunity that they have confidence in him, but do we really believe that? Looking at things from the outside it appears that the team is fully focussed on Fernando Alonso and sorting out the erratic F2012. Are they really putting much effort into helping Massa, or are the warm words in the media the extent of their support? Only people on the inside will know what the true situation is at Ferrari, but it looks as though Massa is on the way out; some suggest that he might leave the team before his contract expires. I can’t help but think that Ferrari would be better off with another driver, perhaps Perez, and Massa better off with a different team.
Massa needs to be in an environment which helps to rebuild his damaged confidence. He would probably be a good asset for a midfield team; if one of the midfield pack were prepared to take him on he would certainly help with car development and, if paired with a young and upcoming driver, Massa would, in all likelihood make a good lead driver. Maybe a return to Sauber is a possibility.
I don’t think that Ferrari will get rid of Massa before the end of the season, though. Throwing another driver into an Alonso focussed environment, mid-season, with a difficult car would not be a sensible move for the team and it would be unlikely to help the long term career of the driver placed into such a situation. In my view, Massa will need to put a brave face on things and soldier on for the rest of the 2012 season. Come the end of the season, though, he should take the opportunity to move on from Ferrari, although I doubt he’ll have much choice in the matter.