Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has again attempted to show support for the beleaguered Felipe Massa, as the Brazilian's poor showing in the Malaysian Grand prix heightened calls for him to be dropped by the Scuderia.
While Massa toiled to 15th place in the wet-dry race at Sepang, his position was weakened further by Fernando Alonso's unexpected run to victory, albeit under pressure from the equally unfancied Sergio Perez.
With Massa having failed to finish in Australia, and not having threatened the podium in 2011, the Italian media has been vociferous in calling for him to be replaced, even though Alonso also admits that this year's Ferrari is a handful to drive.
Perez, Adrian Sutil and even retired veteran Jarno Trulli have all been mentioned as possible replacements for Massa, but Domenicali insists that the team will continue to try and find a cure for his current ills.
“I well remember that, four years ago - in fact, right after a Malaysian Grand Prix which was won for us by Kimi Raikkonen - Felipe was more or less in the same situation as today,” Domenicali pointed out, "The papers were demanding his immediate replacement and he managed to react in the best way possible, thanks to support from the team, which saw him win two of the next three races."
Massa failed to score in either of the first two races of the 2008 season, despite starting from pole in Malaysia, but bounced back by winning in both Bahrain and Turkey, whilst claiming second place in the intervening race in Spain. As Raikkonen's form waned, the Brazilian emerged as Lewis Hamilton's main opposition for the world title.
"We remember how that particular season ended, with Felipe actually world champion, even if it was just for a few seconds, while we took our 16th constructors' title....," Domenicali reflected wistfully, before confirming reports that the Brazilian had abandoned plans to return home for a break between the Malaysian and Chinese grands prix and instead headed for Maranello to meet with the team.
changed his plans and, instead of heading home to see his family in Brazil, he will be in Maranello tomorrow to work alongside the engineers to calmly analyse everything that happened in these past two races, trying to identify why he was not able to deliver what he is capable of," the team boss explained, "That's the right spirit and we are here, ready to help him.”
Massa has three weeks to find some form before the world championship heads back east for the Chinese race, amid reports that he has until Monaco in May to secure his place in the line-up.