Mar.21 (GMM) Felipe Massa’s F1 career with Ferrari appeared to be in deep crisis on Wednesday, as the influential and vocal Italian media lined up multiple candidates to replace him in the team alongside Fernando Alonso.
Earlier, the weekly Autosprint suggested out-of-work grand prix winner and Italian Jarno Trulli is available to step in immediately to replace the beleaguered Brazilian, whose contract expires this year.
On Wednesday, the authoritative daily La Gazzetta dello Sport said Ferrari is considering dropping a driver mid-season for the first time since Rene Arnoux in 1985.
The newspaper said Ferrari development driver Sergio Perez, who is currently at Sauber, is an option, as is the former Force India driver Adrian Sutil.
A poll at Autosprint’s website, meanwhile, asked readers to nominate a worthy replacement for Massa – Mexican Sergio Perez scored the highest, with 44.7 % of the vote.
Second was Trulli with 27.6%, followed by Rubens Barrichello at 6.6%.
Only 1.3 per cent voted for 30-year-old Massa, who never returned to form following his serious accident in Hungary, mid 2009.
On notice by the famous team and with an expiring contract, the Brazilian driver had a nightmare 2012 opener in Australia.
Mika Salo, the 1999 Ferrari substitute driver, told broadcaster MTV3 that Massa’s performance, “compared to Alonso’s, was very poor”.
The Maranello team appeared to be reacting to the media claims in the form of a report on its official website, acknowledging that its 30-year-old driver “has certainly been the target of criticism” after Melbourne.
Indeed, so poor was Massa’s performance last weekend that Ferrari has agreed to scrap his chassis and replace it with a brand new one for Sepang, despite the one-week turnaround between the flyaway back-to-back races, a move which may also have the political motive of clearing the way for Massa’s dismissal.
“This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park,” said the team.
Ferrari also revealed that team boss Stefano Domenicali and technical director Pat Fry returned to Maranello after Australia rather than make the much-shorter trek to Malaysia.
“The fifth position of Fernando Alonso in Australia was a distortion,” argued former Ferrari engineer Joan Villadelprat in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
“Actually, I see a much harsher reality for them.”
Another Spanish newspaper, AS, reports that Ferrari is pressing the throttle on a ‘plan B’, involving a substantial redesign of the F2012 chassis for China that will involve a new FIA crash test.