Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has inadvertently confirmed that Felipe Massa is likely to remain at Maranello next season, despite speculation that the Brazilian's contract may be torn up earlier than planned.
Massa's deal is scheduled to run for one more year before expiry, but successive poor seasons from the Brazilian - who has yet to break into the top four in any race this year - have suggested that he may be replaced at the end of the current campaign, with Mercedes' Nico Rosberg the latest to be named as a possible replacement. Although the German has moved to deny that he has visited the Scuderia in recent weeks, insisting that he wants to win with the Silver Arrows, the fact that his name has followed those of Jenson Button and Mark Webber in Ferrari driver talk suggests that Massa's future is on the line.
Domenicali, however, has said that he expects to see the 2008 championship runner-up raise his game over the next twelve months - although he stopped short of saying that any such upswing in form would prolong Massa's stay at Maranello.
"I am counting heavily on Felipe's will to fight back as he knows next year will be a key one in which, and I'm convinced of it, he will be able to show his true worth," the Italian commented on Ferrari's official website, "As for the rumours regarding all the drivers who are due to arrive in Maranello to replace him, I can only repeat my words - and indeed those only recently uttered by our president - in every possible way, Felipe will also be with us in 2012 and that should make you understand how much faith we have in him.”
Domenicali admitted, meanwhile, that it was imperative for the Prancing Horse to provide a car in which Massa and team-mate Fernando Alonso can fight for victories, and from the start of the season in order to make a title challenge possible.
“Clearly, we are not pleased, as we have said so often,” he acknowledged, "In the remaining two races, we want to try and get on the podium and try all we can to get Fernando to second place in the drivers' classification. Meanwhile, everyone at Maranello is working to produce a car that is competitive right from the start of next season, when, as we are well aware, we can have only one goal, which is victory.
“We started very badly [in 2011] but then, coming into summer, we staged a good recovery which, among other things, saw us take the significant win at Silverstone. Then we had a programme of further development on the car, which should have brought us much closer to the frontrunners. Unfortunately, the updates introduced in Spa did not produce the results we hoped for and so we took a step backwards, partly because, by then, we had interrupted the development of the 150 Italia to concentrate all our energies on next year's car. In the last few races, we also tested a few ideas and parts which will be useful in the near future and we will continue to do that in Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
“I am sure that, in the next few days, going back to Abu Dhabi will have an effect on Fernando, given what happened there last year,. But this negative emotion will be a further incentive for him to turn things around in 2012."