Image Courtesy: Getty Images
Felipe Massa, the driver who lost the 2008 world championship by a single point stands 14th in the standings this year, 139 points behind championship leader and teammate Fernando Alonso. We all are aware of his crash at Hungary 2009 where he fractured his skull because of a spring detached from Rubens Barrichello's car. The injury forced the Brazilian to miss the remainder of the season and since his return the following year he has failed to show his true pace apart from a few races(for example Germany 2010).
Though Massa is confident that he will be able to renew his contract with Ferrari which expires at the end of the year, he will have to show some good results as there are already many drivers waiting to grab his seat. We take an in-depth look at the crash and his performance since then.
Image Courtesy: Google Images
After continuing development till late 2008 in order to win a close battle with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in drivers championship, Ferrari had little time to develop a good car and they came up with a poor F60. So instead of fighting for the championship, they were forced to fight with the midfielders.
The life-threatening accident happened at 2009 Hungarian GP qualifying when a loose spring from Barrichello's suspension broke and penetrated Massa's helmet. He hit the four-layered tyre barrier at turn 4 in full throttle(enlarge image on the right). The Brazilian fractured his skull in the incident and was taken to circuit medical center before being sent to AEK Hospital via helicopter. He underwent an emergency surgery in the hospital and woke up the following day. He was kept under intensive care in next few days in the hospital where he got to talk to his family. He returned to his home in Brazil next week and remained under medical care before preparing himself for the comeback.
Back at the track, the qualifying session was stopped as per international sporting rules. Lewis Hamilton went on to win the race on Sunday with Massa's teammate Kimi Raikkonen finishing in 2nd place. Ferrari showed their support with the pitboard which read 'Forza Felipe - siamo con te' (Strength Felipe - we are with you) which you can see below.
Massa was initially replaced by Luca Badoer from next race before Giancarlo Fissichella replaced the Italian driver for rest of the season. His recovery took time but the Brazilian waved the Chequered flag at his home race and watched the following race in Abu Dhabi from the Ferrari garage.
2010 - The Return
Felipe Massa returned to Formula 1 in 2010 in style with a 2nd place finish at the opening race in Bahrain behind new teammate Fernando Alonso. He was again on podium at the following race in Australia but the results degraded from then. He scored 3 more podiums but failed to win the race and went on to finishin a disappointing 6th place in drivers standings.
But what could have been a breakthrough race was Germany where Massa deliberately handed race lead to Alonso after his team sent him a coded message via radio. After starting the race from 3rd place, Massa took advantage of a fight between front runners Vettel and Alonso to take lead. He stayed there for 49 laps before he slowed down heavily to give his teammate space to overtake following this message “Fernando is faster than you, Can you confirm you understood that message?”.
Image Courtesy: WR12
2011 - A poor year
2011 turned out to be a poor year for Felipe Massa. He failed to match his teammate who scored more than double the points than that of the Brazilian. Massa failed to score even a single podium while Alonso was fighting for 2nd place in the championship in a season dominated by Sebastian Vettel.
He was also involved in a number of accidents with Lewis Hamilton which meant that some good qualifying positions couldn't be turned into good point finishes. At the end of the season, Massa finished the championship in 6th place with 118 points.
Image Courtesy: Getty Images
2012 - Close field makes it worse
2012 as of now has turned out to be another poor season for Felipe Massa. Though Ferrari didn't have a good car at the start of the year, some good developments have brought them back to top. But what has hurt Massa this season is the close field and the Brazilian is down in 14th place in the standings.
However, Massa has showed some good signs this year including 4th place finish at the British Grand Prix. After just scoring two points in first 6 races, Massa has increased the tally to 25 points in next five races.
Image Courtesy: Getty Images
But the question is what does future holds for Felipe Massa. His contract with Ferrari expires at the end of this year and there are in desperate need to find a driver who can regularly scores wins and podiums and help them win the constructors championship. If he wants to retain his seat, then he must regain his old form.
There are many drivers who are in the line to join Ferrari in case Massa fails to secure a seat. Perez has the highest chance; he is a part of Ferrari's driver academy and doing a decent job at Sauber, scoring two podiums for the Swiss team. Mark Webber was linked with the team for months before signing up with Red Bull for another year. Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen and Force India's Paul di Resta also stand a chance.
In case Massa loses out his seat to any of the drivers mentioned above, he has to link for alternatives. Mercedes and McLaren have one seat left but both are likely to sign current runners Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton respectively. Among the midfielders, Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso have both seats vacant while Williams has one. Saubers could be a good option for Massa in case there are no seats left with the top runners. Perez is likely to go to Ferrari, so Massa can come in - Exchange offer! Massa has little chance at Force India - if either of the drivers move to a top team or is dropped out, he will be replaced by reserve Jules Bianchi. Toro Rosso, surprisingly dumped both their drivers last year but this time they are likely to retain Daniel Ricciardo with Vergne's seat in doubt.
We wish Massa best of luck for this season and rest of his career.