Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has felt the need to again deny that Felipe Massa's seat at the Scuderia is under threat, denying the latest rumours suggesting that the Brazilian could be shipped out at the end of the 2010 season.
Despite looking the favourite to win July's German Grand Prix before being ordered to move over for team-mate Fernando Alonso, Massa has struggled to find his form this year, and is currently expected to play a supporting role to the Spaniard's late championship challenge. With pressure from team president Luca di Montezemolo to raise his game, the rumour mill has begun to suggest that Massa could find himself out of favour after Abu Dhabi's season finale but, even before Massa missed the top ten shoot-out in Japanese GP qualifying, Domenicali insisted that there was no threat to the Brazilian's seat.
Telling BBC Sport
that the reports were 'categorically wrong' and confirming that Massa would be part of an unchanged line-up next season - if not necessarily saying the same about the final year of the Brazilian's current contract in 2012 - Domenicali has attempted to diffuse speculation that the likes of Robert Kubica and Mark Webber could be on their way to Maranello. Both drivers have deals with their present teams for next season, but have repeatedly been linked with Ferrari as team-mate to Alonso in 2011.
Massa, meanwhile, has received an apology from Sport Bild
magazine after one of its reporters suggested that the Brazilian had said that he was not prepared to become 'Ferrari's second Rubens Barrichello'. The Williams driver, who spent many seasons playing second fiddle to Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, is a close friend of Massa's, and the younger Brazilian was horrified to find that an interview had been manipulated to include Barrichello's name.
Massa insists that he had made no personal reference to his countryman when telling the German magazine that being forced to play a perennial supporting role would cause him to rethink his career.
"If that happens, I will stop driving," he claimed, "I'm not going to go racing to be eligible for second place. Fernando is very good, definitely, but he is not better than my other team-mates. It's just myself not being as good as usual. I have had big problems with the tyres as, for my driving style, even the soft tyres are too hard. I'm sure many other drivers have had the same problem - I don't think Michael [Schumacher] has forgotten how to drive."