Ferrari were in the forefront of rumour mill since the season’s start as to who will replace Massa for the next season or even right in the middle of the running one. As expected, the Brazilian did make the horses cry in Melbourne and retired, in many respects, was nowhere closer to Alonso at any given moment. There was some hope arrived when he clawed back some valuable pace after a new chassis fitted to his very slow and yielding Ferrari F2012 but nor did the results as his qualifying seemed less competitive.
The below par performance evoked speculations for a new driver taking his place at Ferrari which pretty much included the whole list of drivers in the paddock and also a few sacked ones. Until Spanish GP, the shaky start awarded with just two points on the board almost left Ferrari in despair. At Monaco, we did see Felipe got something out of his car and ran well enough on Thursday to get the right balance and prevailed at p7. A much needed points finish with p6 behind his former championship rival Hamilton has made the horses breathing at last.
His success reemerged at Silverstone after two races on a wet track which saw Ferrari making a great deal of progress as Alonso claimed pole while a bit disappointed Massa started from fifth – best grid position since Korea 2010 . With getting everything worked out as he’d have wanted, Massa fended off Raikkonen to take his place behind the podium finishers. At Spa, we did witness the old Massa in a ‘racing mode’ with some sublime overtakes to reel in a fifth place result. Despite all that, Ferrari still waited to lift the money off their hat.
Since the option in his contract ran out, Ferrari were fueled up to report on the case but they waited patiently for a sit down with Massa. In the next race, at Ferrari’s home, it was down to Massa to deliver as Alonso’s car cropped up an anti-rollbar failure on a crucial q3 lap to put him at the back. Loads of pressure invested on Felipe as they apparently had the fastest car but to the delight of adoring Italian crowd, Alonso won the party by finishing ahead of his team-mate on podium.
After all the drama at Monza, naysayers of Massa did quite get convinced that he retained his composure and form and would have deliver if he got some more space for himself in the team. I would say, the Japanese GP was a big highlight, not just because he secured a podium but it came in at the right time. Lewis and Perez decided where they would want to go next year and of the top teams only Ferrari’s move was left undisclosed.
The long wait was finally over and disproved the fact that Ferrari wanted Massa to leave as he was retained for eighth season running recently – the horse pranced didn’t it? Peter Sauber is good at spotting young talents and he did discover the one in Massa. I must say, it was Ferrari who chose to buy Raikkonen’s contract as opposed to Massa’s to pave way for Alonso.
He was that good but unfortunately things can change swiftly in F1, in Massa’s story, it actually quite the quickest. Since that near fatal crash in 2009 Hungarian GP, Massa was never the same man as before. He struggled to find rhythm and not faster enough even in a fast car. Ferrari does have a clear favourite, their ace-man, Fernando Alonso but coping with him is just as hard as coping with Schumacher as they need spotlights placed at them in any circumstances.
But why did Ferrari choose to stay put with Felipe when they had other colourful options? Ferrari issued a statement that had told the answer. They weighed up Felipe carefully and also the approached opportunities, they said. It was a decision solely made by the team not by Alonso they pointed out and eulogised Massa as a team player and a talented driver.
Ferrari did admit seeking replacements but in the end it was a smart move to keep Massa for yet another season as he knew their operations better than anyone else and can render hands if needed by Alonso to win back the title deceiving for long. The 2008 runner-up shouldn’t be taken lightly if Ferrari was to give him a good car in 2013. It’s good to see him not hanging his racing boots as he will be available for one more season unlike Schumacher, perhaps the toughest of his career – a season to redeem himself for maybe one more time.