In a somewhat surprising move, particularly given past comments on the form of his number two driver, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has backed Felipe Massa to pull out of his slump.
The Brazilian has failed to match team leader Fernando Alonso in either of the opening two races of 2012, retiring from a non-scoring position in Australia and labouring home in Malaysia. His results would not have been seen as that bad given the general perception of Ferrari's F2012, but Alonso's fifth place in Melbourne and victory at Sepang cast Massa's performances in a somewhat more negative light.
Team principal Stefano Domenicali has already insisted that the Scuderia will continue to work with the 2008 world championship runner-up, fending off suggestions that Massa should be replaced by the likes of Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil or Jarno Trulli with immediate effect, and now di Montezemolo - a noted critic of the Brazilian - has also shown a degree of solidarity.
“We have great confidence in Massa," he told Italian news agency SID
, “and, at the moment, I don't see many outstanding drivers out there [to replace him].”
Considered to be under threat for the past couple of seasons, Massa has not troubled the top three since his near-fatal qualifying accident at the Hungaroring in 2009, but fellow countryman Luciano Burti - who was also eased out of the top flight following a heavy accident - believes that Massa's problems, while still psychological, may stem for another, altogether less violent, moment.
“When the order came [to allow Alonso through in Germany 2010], his house fell around him,” the former Prost and Jaguar driver told Brazil's El Globo
, referring to the now-infamous team orders that marred a potential victory on the very anniversary of his Budapest accident.