As unlikely as it may have seemed just a couple of weeks ago, the Formula One rumour mill is already suggesting that Felipe Massa could be poised to make an emotional return to the cockpit in front of Ferrari's loyal tifosi
at the Italian Grand Prix.
According to Italy's Corriere dello Sport
, the Brazilian's recovery from the head injuries he sustained in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix late last month is progressing at a sufficient rate to allow him to contemplate a return before the end of the season, with Monza being pencilled in as the most likely opportunity. Countryman Rubens Barrichello confirmed earlier this week that Massa was in good spirits - and 'exactly the same person as before' - after spending time with him in Brazil during F1's summer break.
While the report claims that Massa has expressed a desire to return as soon as possible, it also urges the need for caution, with the 2008 championship runner-up having to pass all necessary medical checks before being allowed back into the cockpit. With no in-season testing - at least in a 2009-spec machine - for the Brazilian to test his fitness, a lot will rest on both his own judgement and those of the doctors - both physical and neuro experts - tasked with examining him, most likely in Paris early next month.
reveals that Massa's main fitness problem may not surround the eye or front of skull injuries that made the headlines after Budapest, but a secondary fracture at the base of his skull which, should it receive too vigorous a workout before being fully healed could lead to problems in the future.
Questions may be raised about why Massa wants to return before the end of the 2009 season. There is little on the line for either himself or the Scuderia, given their slow start under the new regulations, and a prolonged period of recuperation could be the key to allowing a more competitive comeback in 2010. However, even though Ferrari appears to be sending out a positive message to its star by not opting for an outsider - not least another young charger - as replacement, Monza is expected to be a pivotal race for next season, with Fernando Alonso and Santander both expected to be confirmed on board for 2010.
Luca Badoer is set to replace Massa in next weekend's European Grand Prix, with Michael Schumacher still being talked about as a possible stand-in at Spa, despite already performing a U-turn on one potential comeback.