Only a matter of days after Mark Webber had pledged his immediate future to Red Bull Racing for a fifth consecutive campaign in F1 in 2011, the man the Australian was briefly tipped to replace at Ferrari next year – Felipe Massa – has similarly elected to stay put, with the announcement that the Brazilian has re-signed for the Scuderia
until the end of 2012.
Massa's relationship with Ferrari began back in 2003, when he was recruited by the Prancing Horse as a test driver following a mixed maiden campaign in the top flight with Sauber-Petronas, during which flashes of promise had been interspersed with a number of off-piste moments. After another season at Sauber in 2004, the Paulista returned to Maranello in 2005, and since then he has never left.
During that time, the 29-year-old has notched up eleven grand prix victories and finished as runner-up in the 2008 F1 World Championship to Lewis Hamilton – though for about ten seconds after taking the chequered flag for a hugely popular victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, Massa believed he
had clinched the crown, until his McLaren-Mercedes rival's last-ditch overtake of Timo Glock in an ailing Toyota snatched it away from him again.
If 2008 was the highlight, then 2009 was inarguably the nadir, with a life and sight-threatening accident during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix last summer causing some to wonder if he would ever race again, let alone win again. However, on his return in the curtain-raising 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir, Massa stunned by out-qualifying new team-mate – and double world champion – Fernando Alonso.
Even if his subsequent performances have admittedly been rather patchier, Ferrari has clearly seen enough to retain his services for at least a further two years – and is confident that the controversial pit-lane incident between Massa and Alonso in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai back in April will not lead to any future tensions or difficulties between the two team-mates.
“I am happy to be given the opportunity to drive for Ferrari for a further two seasons,” Massa enthused. “Throughout my entire F1 career, I have always raced with an engine made in Maranello and it is a matter of pride for me to be able to continue working with a team that I regard as a second family.”
From 69 grands prix for Ferrari, Massa has mounted the podium on no fewer than 30 occasions, finished inside the points 51 times and tallied 15 pole positions, twelve fastest laps and 360 points. Team principal Stefano Domenicali revealed his delight at having secured his services for another two campaigns.
“Felipe has been part of Ferrari for almost a decade and together with us, he has grown as a driver and as a man, going through some very difficult times as well as giving us moments of great happiness,” remarked the Italian. “We wanted to show proof of stability for the future, believing in the worth of a driver pairing that is without equal in terms of talent, speed and its ability to work together for the good of the team.”