Felipe Massa’s poor start to the season has fuelled speculation he will be replaced by Ferrari at the end of the season, if not sooner.
Ferrari themselves highlighted the gulf between Massa and team mate Fernando Alonso on Monday:
“Fernando has always maintained a very high level (67 points and second place in 2010, 51 and fifth place last year) while Felipe?óÔé¼Ôäós drop off has made itself felt.
“The Brazilian had picked up 49 points two years ago and 24 the following year, while so far this season he has just two.
“In Montmelo, Felipe was very unlucky, both in the race and in qualifying, but everyone, he more than anyone, is expecting a change of gear starting right away with the Monaco Grand Prix.”
“What was published on our web site Monday evening just reflected what [Stefano] Domenicali said Sunday night about Felipe, nothing more than this!
“Anyway, someone has found a good opportunity to promote the umpteenth candidate to replace Felipe: this time is [Jerome] D’Ambrosio…”
It’s an inescapable fact that Massa has woefully under-performed so far this year. He has been out-qualified 5-0 by Alonso and out-raced 4-0 (Massa retired in Australia while running well behind his team mate). He’s been behind Alonso for all bar 13 of 280 racing laps.
Nor is this atypical of Massa’s performance since the pair became team mates. He was out-qualified 15-4 by Alonso in the last two seasons. In the races, he was beaten 13-4 in 2010 and 13-2 in 2011:
This has inevitably prompted rumours about his future, and plenty of spurious headlines tipping all manner of drivers to take Massa’s seat. But the bottom line is it’s surprising Ferrari have put up with such poor performance this long and inconceivable they would be happy for it to continue.
With that in mind, what should Ferrari look for in a replacement?
Should they follow McLaren’s lead in pairing up two world champions? Should they settle for a safe ‘number two’ driver alongside Alonso? Or should they keep the faith with Massa for another year?
Being Ferrari, they could take their pick of practically any driver on the grid. For the purposes of this poll I’ve omitted those who are known to have contracts for next year with top teams (Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen). I’ve also included a few options of drivers who have recently left F1 and are looking to enter the sport.
Who do you think should be Alonso’s team mate next year? Select from the options below and explain your choice in the comments.
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Image ?é?® Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo