Felipe Massa is still considering returning to Formula One race action at the Italian Grand Prix next month, despite warnings not to rush his comeback following the serious head injuries he sustained during qualifying in Hungary.
The Brazilian, who was admitted to AEK Hospital in Budapest in an apparent 'life-threatening' condition following the freak collision with a spring shed by Rubens Barrichello's Brawn, continues to recuperate at home in Sao Paulo, and is scheduled to meet with respected neurosurgeon Steve Olvey in Miami today [Monday] for further checks, amid rumours that he is to have a plate inserted in the front of his skull.
Speculation about the occupant of Ferrari's second car was rife at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend, with the Scuderia
even posting a tongue-in-cheek list of rumoured candidates on its website. Current stand-in Luca Badoer continued to struggle alongside race winner Kimi Raikkonen in Belgium, qualifying last and coming home at the tail of the field for a second consecutive weekend, sparking calls for him to be replaced for the team's home race in two weeks' time.
The 38-year-old – the man who holds the unenviable record for the most F1 starts without ever troubling the scorers – remains adamant that he will
still be in the #3 car for the Italian Grand Prix, and in contention for a significantly better result than in Valencia or Spa, arguing: "At Monza I think for sure I start with the idea to get in the points range."
Massa's condition, however, has caused Ferrari to stall on an immediate announcement, with team boss Stefano Domenicali admitting that a decision wasn't likely until after the Brazilian's meeting with Olvey. Massa has already admitted that he would consider returning to action should he be cleared medically to do so, but has been warned against too hasty a comeback, with friends and rivals alike suggesting that the start of 2010 would be a better target.
"With regard to what we are going to do for the next races, we will tell you in the next three days," Domenicali told reporters in Belgium, "We will use all our consideration following the medical check that Felipe will do tomorrow, and then we will put on the table all the different things that are correct and have been considered and then we will make a decision."
With Badoer's position under threat, Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella's second place at Spa elevated the Italian into pole position for the seat alongside the man who beat him to the flag on Sunday - despite all sides playing down rumours of an imminent switch from Silverstone to Maranello, with Force India chairman Vijay Mallya asserting: "I don't want to talk about speculation; I have not been approached by anyone yet."
"Today, Luca did the best he could and [Raikkonen's] win also reflects his contribution within the team," Domenicali continued, "Now we will take a few days to evaluate his immediate future, also based on what Felipe's recovery time might be.
"Ferrari does not want to be last in the race, that is for sure, but, as we said, we need to put on the table all the considerations and then as soon as we have taken the decision we will keep you informed. We want to be strong as a team, as a driver and as a brand."
Domenicali ruled reports in Italy that Fernando Alonso would make an earlier-than-expected switch to Ferrari - the Spaniard is tipped to be a full-time member of the squad in 2010 - despite the double world champion appearing at the head of its hypothetical list of replacements for Badoer.
The full A-V list, collated from the rumour mill and published on the official Ferrari website, is as follows:
A as in Fernando Alonso
B as in Jules Bianchi, Mirko Bortolotti and Sebastien Bourdais
C as in David Coulthard
D as in Anthony Davidson
F as in Giancarlo Fisichella and Luca Filippi
G as in Marc Gené
H as in Nico Hulkenberg
K as in Robert Kubica
L as in André Lotterer and Vitantonio Liuzzi
P as in Nelson Piquet Jr and Giorgio Pantano
R as in Valentino Rossi and Davide Rigon
S as in Takuma Sato and Bruno Senna
T as in Jarno Trulli
V as in Jos Verstappen