Stefano Domenicali has admitted that he felt under pressure amid calls for Felipe Massa to be replaced midway through the 2012 F1 season, but insists that retaining the Brazilian was the right decision for both parties.
As he had in each previous season since his comeback from injury in 2010, Massa started the year slowly and, with his contract due for renewal at the end of the year, Ferrari was immediately linked with a plethora of potential replacements, including Sergio Perez, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta.
Resisting the pressure to make a hasty decision may ultimately have cost Maranello the services of Perez, who was snapped up by arch-rival McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton for 2013, but Domenicali insists that he was right to wait, particularly as Massa's form picked up towards the end of the year.
“I think the toughest part of Felipe's career is now behind him,” the Italian told journalists at the Wroom
media event, “I'm sure his problem was not linked to his contractual situation. After last summer, his approach turned about and, as a result, his performance on track changed and he managed to show just how talented he is.”
Domenicali admitted that he had taken the calls to implement a change in order to boost Ferrari's championship challenge personally, but believes that the decision to retain the status quo
will pay off in 2013. Massa ended the year seventh in the standings, after claiming two podium finishes in the final six races and scoring in every race in the second half of the campaign.
“There was a lot of pressure on me regarding possible changes but, in the interests of the team, I preferred to wait,” Domenicali explained, “Today, I'm convinced that keeping Felipe in the Ferrari family was the right decision.
“His performance in the second half of the season contributed significantly to our second place in the constructors' classification. For the team, that is a strong point - and, for Fernando [Alonso], it provides further impetus to try even harder.”