Top 10 F1 Drivers of the Year 2012:
9: Felipe Massa
Sao Paulo, Brazil
April 25, 1981
Crash.net F1 Driver of 2011 position:
For much of 2012, it appeared that Felipe Massa was, again, in his last year with Ferrari. As in previous seasons, however, the Brazilian produced just enough of an upturn in form late on to preserve his position for another season.
A decidedly lacklustre start to the campaign saw him fail to score until Bahrain and just four times in the opening ten rounds, albeit with a best of fourth at Silverstone, as Fernando Alonso shouldered the burden for the Scuderia in its efforts to keep pace with Red Bull and McLaren in the constructors' standings.
Narrowly missing the podium in the British round appeared to be a minor turning point for Massa, who was already being talked of as 'yesterday's man' at Maranello, particularly following Sergio Perez's strong opposition to Alonso in Malaysia. With the condemnation of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo once again ringing in his ears, the Brazilian's form took a welcome upswing from Hungary onwards, the #6 car finishing in the points at every race, and finally returning to the podium for the first time in almost two years with second place in Japan.
Despite the rumours of possible replacements – and a list that expanded from including just Perez to also cover the likes of Heikki Kovalainen and both Force India drivers – Massa was offered a one-year extension to his current deal in mid-October, and almost immediately showed why he is the ideal foil for Alonso by sacrificing a superior grid position at the USGP in order to improve his team-mate's championship chances.
His reward was not only the chance to come back through the field to finish fourth in Texas, but, one week later, taking an emotional third in front of his home crowd at Interlagos, where he joined Alonso in the top three.
From the depths of the drivers' table, he rose to an eventual seventh overall, and his late season form, particularly from Suzuka onwards, could give Ferrari something of a headache if he is able to carry the momentum into 2013.
Top 10 F1 Driver of the Year 2012 results so far:
10. Kamui Kobayashi