Thankfully the prognosis for Felipe Massa seems to be getting better with every passing day. Though hope continues to grow he may be able to return to racing in the future, it looks increasingly unlikely he will be able to do so in Valencia next month.
It leaves Ferrari in the same place they were in with Michael Schumacher ten years ago, hunting for a replacement for an injured driver.
The internet has been buzzing with rumours that Schumacher himself could be srafted in to take Massa’s place. Fernando Alonso, who could be without a drive for his home race after Renault’s suspension, has also been linked to the number three car. Who will end up in the seat?
The man himself has not said whether he would drive for the team or not – and there have been mixed messages from those close to him.
His spokesperson Sabine Kehm indicated he might return to his old team:
The whole thing will be considered by Ferrari. If they approach Michael, then he will consider it. But there is no reason for him to step into their discussion. Usually, I would say he’s not interested because he’s fine with his life and he doesn’t miss anything but now the situation is so different – it’s very hypothetical.
Luca Colajanni added:
We have said before that it is possible that Michael Schumacher could return to help us out… We have two test drivers at Ferrari (Luca Badoer and Marc Gene) at the moment and Michael is an advisor. We have not spoken to him, but it is possible that this might happen. But we will have to wait and see what happens. It is something for (Ferrari team principal) Stefano Domenicali to consider over the coming weeks.
But manager Willi Weber has consistently denied the rumours.
Whoever sits in the car at the next race in Valencia, it will not be Michael Schumacher. I am not 100 per cent sure; I am 200 per cent sure. The pressure on him would be huge. He would be expected to win, but he has not driven this car. When Michael was racing he would get as close to perfection as possible. In this case, it would not be perfection; it would be a gamble – and that’s not Michael’s style.
Managers, however, are paid to get the most money for their clients – and they do not do that by willingly offering them up.
There are more practical reasons why Schumacher might not take up the drive. He hurt his neck in a bike crash in February. And questions remain about his willingness to partner top-level drivers like Kimi Raikkonen.
With Renault banned from the Valencia race, and Fernando Alonso having been linked to a future Ferrari drive for some time, it’s not surprising that some people have put two and two together and begun to wonder if Alonso might appear in Ferrari overalls soon.
In reality there would be significant contractural obligations to overcome. He is employed by Renault and has various personal sponsorships. Whether he could make the leap to Ferrari depends on whether Renault’s suspension from the Valencia race might be sufficient to activate any break clauses Alonso might be able to take advantage of.
On the other hand you have to question how desirable it might be for Ferrari to have Alonso in for just one race before a likely return to Renault, and then have to find another replacement.
Added to that, with Renault planning to appeal their suspension it is not even certain Alonso will be available.
Perhaps the most ‘out-there’ suggestion of the lot. But Rossi has tested for the team and has shown an interest in competing in four-wheeled motor sports, mainly rallying. His gigantic popularity would create masive interest in the race.
And there isn’t a Moto GP race on that weekend…
Read more: Valentino Rossi tests an F1 Ferrari
If any of the first three names on this list were to end up in the car it would be a remarkable development. Could Ferrari go for a similarly experienced but less high-profile choice?
It’s worth remembering who the team chose in 1999. Mika Salo had lost his F1 seat before the start of the year but had a decent amount of experience. Looking for a similar driver this year they could hardly do better than pick David Coulthard.
One of the most experienced F1 drivers ever, Coulthard drove with Ferrari engines in 2006. He has contractural obligations to Red Bull and the BBC, but they might be persuaded to reach a compromise. Dietrich Mateschitz’s company still uses Ferrari power in their Toro Rosso cars.
Badoer has been a Ferrari tester for aeons. But he didn’t get the call-up last time Ferrari needed to replace an injured driver, so why should he this time, now his last F1 race is almost a decade ago?
Of the two Ferrari testers, Gene is probably the more likely to appear at Valencia. He has more recent experience as a racing driver than Badoer, having last raced in 2005, and has appeared as a substitute on two separate occasions.
Added to that, he is Spanish, which is likely to go down well with the crowd, particularly if they are having to make do without Alonso.
Counting against Gene are doubts over his race craft: he was dropped by Williams during his last appearance as a substitute in favour of Antonio Pizzonia.
Liuzzi perhaps fits the Salo mould even better – he has far fewer F1 starts to his name than Coulthard does, but is still young and has been tipped to return to Formula 1 in the future.
He would be the first Italian driver to race a Ferrari since Nicola Larini in 1994, which would inevitably attract a lot of media attention.
Liuzzi’s employment by an active F1 team – even one as lowly as Force India – may count against him. Particularly as they enjoy close technical co-operation with rivals McLaren.
Like Liuzzi, race-fit and recently unemployed, Davidson has only made the occasional appearance in sports car races this year.
Ferrari tested three young Italian drivers in the off-season: Edoardo Piscopo, Salvatore Cicatelli and Mirko Bortolotti. Although F2 racer Birtolotti impressed it would be highly unusual for Ferrari to elevate a complete rookie to the team at short notice. It has been decades since a driver made their F1 debut in a Ferrari.
Who do you think would be the best choice for Ferrari? Who is most likely to turn up in red at Valencia? Have your say below.
More from the forum: Who will replace Massa?
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