Felipe Massa is to get back behind the wheel of an F1 car for the first time since his terrifying high-speed accident during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix back in late July, as Ferrari have admitted it is 'very, very unlikely' – but not altogether impossible – that he will return to active competition in the 2009 season finale in Abu Dhabi in four weeks' time.
Massa is continuing to recover at home in Brazil from the fractured skull and serious head and eye injuries he sustained when an 800g suspension spring flew off the rear of the Brawn GP of compatriot Rubens Barrichello at the Hungaroring, striking him on the helmet as he travelled at more than 200mph, knocking him briefly unconscious and sending him ploughing off-track into the tyre barriers.
Having last week been confirmed at Ferrari for a fifth consecutive campaign in 2010 alongside new-signing Fernando Alonso, the São Paulista has now been given the all-clear to test firstly a GP2 Series car on Tuesday (6 October) and subsequently a two-year-old, title-winning F2007 fitted with GP2 tyres to circumvent the in-season F1 testing ban.
The confirmation was imparted to the Scuderia
by stewards over the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, and it is understood that Massa is now Maranello-bound to put himself to the test in his team's state-of-the-art simulator – designed to ascertain his reactions as he embarks upon a fortnight of physical training, preparation and assessment.
Following that, he will try out the GP2 machine and then the F2007 – the same car that highlighted the neck injury that ruled Michael Schumacher out of his planned comeback in Massa's stead earlier in the summer – after Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali deemed it pointless asking the other teams for permission to run the current-spec model due to the likely friction it would cause.
“I don't know yet when the test will be,” the Italian is quoted as having said by Auto Week
. “We will decide this week. Felipe will stay with the team this week, he will go and do some training in the simulator – physical training at Maranello – and then we will decide when to do this (the F2007 test). Also, because it is compulsory, he has to do an FIA medical check before doing something.
“Our main target is to make sure that everything is okay from the physical point-of-view, as it was (the target) for Michael Schumacher in the early summer – this is why we have asked the FIA medical delegate to be there. We asked the FIA to make sure that there is no breach of any kind of sporting or testing regulations – this gave us clearance to do the test. It means that when we are ready, we will do a test at Fiorano with an F2007 with no changes – just GP2 tyres.
“It is not really a test, though. It is to see how his body reacts to driving a Formula 1 car, even if is not up-to-date. That is not what we care about; it is to give him an indication about how the recovery is going. What I can say is that it is not planned [for Massa] to do any driving in Brazil. For Abu Dhabi it is very, very unlikely. The main target is Bahrain next year.”
However, according to former ITV-F1
commentator James Allen, a Brazilian journalist close to Massa has hinted that the 28-year-old is eager to race in Abu Dhabi on 1 November in the inaugural grand prix to be held around the all-new Yas Marina street circuit. According to Allen's internet blog, on the assumption of a successful test, the 2008 world championship runner-up will head to Paris to be examined by FIA doctors – and should they too give him the all-clear and he pass the governing body's medical tests, he is likely to ask Ferrari for permission to return to the grid in the UAE. The eleven-time grand prix-winner is 'in very good shape, has no brain trauma and his eyesight is 100 per cent', Allen reports.