Felipe Massa might still be a part of the furniture at Maranello, but the jury is still out on whether he deserves another season with Ferrari when there is other young talent to promote in his place.
Even former drivers cannot decide what is best for the Prancing Horse, with one suggesting that the Brazilian can be a contender for this year's world championship, and another still trying to fathom the Scuderia's decision to retain Massa as team-mate to Fernando Alonso.
It may be partisan, but double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi still believes that his fellow countryman can regain the sort of form he showed before his now infamous Hungaroring qualifying accident in 2009. The previous season, with Michael Schumacher having retired, Massa took up the baton at Ferrari and, for a few seconds believed that he had indeed won the title - until it was confirmed that Lewis Hamilton had gained the place he needed to be crowned at Interlagos. Then came Budapest 2009 and, for a while, there was doubt whether Massa would race again, let alone battle for the championship....
Fittipaldi, who won the crown in 1972 and 1974, still holds out hope for his compatriot, however, telling TotalRace
that Massa can benefit from the change of rules for 2012.
“Without a doubt, Felipe will be able to adapt his style of driving to the new Ferrari, which is a better car," he insisted, "He will have that chance. The Pirelli tyres have made things difficult for aggressive drivers, such as Felipe, but he is quick and has not
lost any performance due to the 2009 accident, which was different to that of Nelson Piquet at Imola or mine [in CART] at Michigan. He was hit on the head and passed out, it's different. I know the psychological effects of this and it is different.”
“Felipe can score great results, but this will depend on the performance of the Ferrari. However, he has a chance to challenge for the title as he has done before."
Former Ferrari supersub Mika Salo, however, holds the opposite view, and cannot understand why the struggling Brazilian has been kept on for another season.
The Finn, who was denied a maiden F1 victory when Ferrari instructed him to move over for then team leader Eddie Irvine while subbing for the injured Michael Schumacher at Hockenheim in 1999, admits that Massa's time should be up.
“I don't think Massa will be staying after this season,” he told Finnish broadcaster MTV3
, “I was surprised that he was allowed to continue this year.”
Indeed, the 45-year old did not hold back when it came to discussing a number of drivers on this year's grid, claiming that Jenson Button was smarter than McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, that Romain Grosjean was only partnering Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus because '[Eric] Boullier is his manager', and that Williams would not have a good year because '[Bruno] Senna faded badly by the end [of 2011]' and '[Pastor] Maldonado is a bit of a hot-head'...... Adding to his latter point, Salo rated Williams' line-up as the worst of the year and suggested that fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, currently reserve at Grove, could get the chance to race before the season was out.