Stefano Domenicali has stressed that Felipe Massa must 'stay calm' and 'improve a bit in terms of his consistency in the races' in order to satisfy Ferrari's requirements of him – although he did hint that regardless of his results, the Brazilian's days at Maranello could ultimately be numbered.
To-date in F1 2011, Massa has tallied just 70 points to team-mate Fernando Alonso's 145 and has failed to take the chequered flag any higher than fifth – and it was not until the Hungaroring just over a week ago that he finally succeeded in out-qualifying the Spaniard for the first time this season.
Whilst reiterating that the 30-year-old is not in any danger of losing his seat in 2012 – despite persistent speculation linking the likes of Mark Webber, Jenson Button and the injured Robert Kubica to the cockpit of the #6 scarlet machine – Domenicali concedes that the 2008 F1 World Championship runner-up does need to further raise his game to help Ferrari accomplish its objectives.
“I have seen that he was clearly on the up in the last three races, and I am sure he will do very well in the second part of the year,” the Scuderia's
team principal mused during the summer Wrooom event at Madonna di Campiglio in the Italian Dolomites. “Felipe has to stay calm and make the most of his talents, of which there are many.
“He is a very quick driver over a single lap, but maybe he needs to improve a bit in terms of his consistency in the races. It is definitely not easy being paired with someone like Fernando, but that should be a motivation for him, not an excuse. For us, it is vital for Felipe to be on top of his game, given that for at least another year-and-a-half, he is one of our drivers.”
Although that appears to assure Massa of his short-term future at Ferrari, the longer-term remains distinctly cloudy. After again mulling over the prospect of McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton one day jumping ship to join the Prancing Horse, Domenicali went on to confess that the most likely strategy would be to partner Alonso with a young up-and-coming talent – ideally a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy such as current Sauber rookie Sergio Pérez, or GP2 Series ace Jules Bianchi.
“I am pleased he said, 'never say never' on the subject of Ferrari,” the Italian remarked of Hamilton. “In fact, it is logical that everyone aspires to come to Maranello sooner or later, given what we represent in the history of this sport. Having said that, I don't think the question will arise, neither in the short nor in the long-term.
“For the Ferrari of the future, I believe the right combination is to have one well-established driver with great experience, alongside a talented youngster on the way up. I do not think that, with the pressure we are under, we can consider having two youngsters in the team at the same time.”
“I am very happy to have Felipe as a team-mate and we work very well together,” added Alonso, contracted to Ferrari until at least the end of 2016. “If the day arrives when someone else was to come here, that would not be a problem for me – even if it was Hamilton.”