Ferrari has confirmed that the recovering Felipe Massa will return to the cockpit of an F1 car next week, as the Brazilian prepares to begin the final stage of his recuperation from the fractured skull and serious head and eye injuries he suffered in a freak accident during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring back in July.
Having arrived at Ferrari's Maranello headquarters on Monday morning, Massa has since spent a considerable degree of time on the team's simulator, 'driving' around the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona and his 'home' track of Interlagos, scene of next weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.
The São Paulista has also been working with his race engineer Rob Smedley, and upon the successful completion of an FIA medical check-up in France on Friday (9 October), the Scuderia
has announced that Massa will get behind the wheel of a two-year-old, GP2-tyre shod F2007 at Fiorano, possibly as early as Monday, having received clearance from the governing body over the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
Following that, the 28-year-old's performance will be assessed and a decision will likely be made about whether or not he is able to pursue his dream of returning to the starting grid for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale around the all-new Yas Marina street circuit on 1 November, or whether he must instead wait until next year to come back.
“On Friday, he (Massa) will fly to Paris for check-ups under the eyes of the FIA, before he will come back to Italy,” commented a team spokesman. “Early next week, maybe already on Monday, Felipe will finally get back on the track in a real F1 single-seater.”
Whilst ruled out from competing in front of his adoring partisan supporters at Interlagos on 18 October – the first time in six years that the eleven-time grand prix-winner will not take the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix, leaving Brawn GP title hopeful Rubens Barrichello as the sole home-grown driver in the field – Massa will nonetheless play a vital role in the potentially championship-deciding encounter, having been invited to wave the chequered flag at the end of the race. Other celebrities to have previously been granted the privilege include footballing legend Pelé in 2002, and supermodel Gisele Bündchen two years later.