Massa ditches trip home to be at Maranello as career crisis deepens

Felipe Massa with Ferrari race engineer Rob Smedley

Felipe Massa with Ferrari race engineer Rob Smedley at Sepang

Mar.28 (Reuters) Ferrari’s Felipe Massa changed his travel plans and headed to his team’s Maranello factory instead of home to Brazil, after failing to score any points in the first two races of the Formula 1 season – and throwing his do-or-die season into crisis.

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.

Felipe has struggled in the cockpit of the Ferrari F2012

Massa, who has not stood on the podium since 2010, finished 15th in Sunday’s rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix won by Spanish team mate Fernando Alonso. In the Australian season-opener the weekend before in Melbourne he had retired.

Speculation has mounted that Massa could be replaced at Ferrari well before the season is out but team boss Stefano Domenicali has been publicly supportive.

“I well remember that, four years ago, in fact right after a Malaysian Grand Prix, which was won for us by Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe was more or less in the same situation as today,” the Ferrari website (www.ferrari.com) quoted him as saying.

“The papers were demanding his immediate replacement and he managed to react in the best way possible, thanks to support from the team, which saw him win two of the next three races.

“We remember how that particular season ended, with the Brazilian actually world champion, even if it was just for a few seconds, while we took our sixteenth Constructors’ title,” continued Domenicali

Race winner Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday 2 November 2008.

Felipe Massa has not won an F1 race since winning the 2008 Brazilian GP

“Felipe has changed his plans and, instead of heading home to see his family in Brazil, he will be in Maranello tomorrow to work alongside the engineers to calmly analyse everything that happened in these past two races, trying to identify why he was not able to deliver what he is capable of.

“That’s the right spirit and we are here, ready to help him,” he said.

The next race is in China on April 15.

Massa failed to win a point in the first two races of 2008, despite being on pole in Malaysia. He then won in Bahrain, was second in Spain and won again in Turkey.

The Brazilian would have been champion that year had McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton not beaten him by a single point after securing the fifth place he needed by overtaking Toyota’s Timo Glock at the final corner of the last lap in Brazil after Massa had won the race.

Alonso’s win at Sepang was against the odds, with Ferrari’s new car uncompetitive in Australia, and Domenicali said having the Spaniard leading the championship meant nothing and that the problems had not gone away.

Alonso was in Maranello on Tuesday after arriving there from Malaysia on Monday.

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