Who should Ferrari replace Felipe Massa with?

Debates and polls

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Barcelona, 2012Felipe 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?s 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.”

Ferrari continue to rubbish rumours that Massa will be replaced any time soon, writing the following on Twitter yesterday:

“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.

Who should Ferrari replace Felipe Massa with?

  • Mark Webber (7%)
  • Lewis Hamilton (4%)
  • Michael Schumacher (1%)
  • Romain Grosjean (1%)
  • Paul di Resta (8%)
  • Nico Hulkenberg (1%)
  • Kamui Kobayashi (6%)
  • Sergio Perez (28%)
  • Daniel Ricciardo (0%)
  • Jean-Eric Vergne (0%)
  • Pastor Maldonado (1%)
  • Bruno Senna (0%)
  • Heikki Kovalainen (4%)
  • Vitaly Petrov (0%)
  • Pedro de la Rosa (0%)
  • Narain Karthikeyan (2%)
  • Timo Glock (2%)
  • Charles Pic (0%)
  • Robert Kubica (12%)
  • Nick Heidfeld (2%)
  • Jerome d'Ambrosio (2%)
  • Rubens Barrichello (2%)
  • Adrian Sutil (8%)
  • Someone else (2%)
  • They should keep Massa (4%)
  • Sebastien Buemi (0%)
  • Jaime Alguersuari (3%)

Total Voters: 797

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207 comments on Who should Ferrari replace Felipe Massa with?

  1. LexBlair (@lexblair) said on 17th May 2012, 14:04

    to be honest I think Glock would suit Ferrari better than Perez…at least right now…

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 17th May 2012, 23:34

      Agreed. Glock is the most experienced and competent driver at the back of the grid at the moment, with the exception of Kovaleinen, who was a disappointment at McLaren.

  2. Nirupam (@nirupam) said on 17th May 2012, 14:05

    As much as I am an Alonso fan, I for one, would love to see Lewis in that Ferrari.
    1. 2007 is long past, both have changed enormously, and fortunately in a positive way
    2. I would love to see how does Lewis perform in that ferrari
    3. More than anything else, lets face it, these two are definitely the best from the current grid, and they even as team mates provide ample excitement in terms of pure wheel to wheel racing

    And the way Lewis greeted in the post-quali press conf in Barcelona, I wish this line up could be true

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 17th May 2012, 14:54

      That dovetails I suppose with the talk about Hamilton storming away from McLaren if they keep up their pathetic pit work and strategy. Hamilton and Alonso never had a beef. That is an urban legend. To the contrary, they probably have the greatest mutual respect on the grid. They might very well race well together in a Whitmarsh McLaren team. However, I’m not sure that things would be so smooth in the ultra traditional Latin-focused, TV-smashing, Luca-run Ferrari squad. Hamilton would be on the outs from the board room on down and this is a team philosophically devoted to having a lead driver.

      • RaulZ (@raulz) said on 18th May 2012, 14:19

        True, Hamilton would be received now at Ferrari as bad as Alonso was in McLaren. The problem with 2007 is that these traumatic things brake something that never again get repaired. Alonso said too mach about McLaren to come back and also Hamilton spoke too much about Ferrari in the past. Fans don’t forget when they say something bad.

  3. Roald (@roald) said on 17th May 2012, 14:07

    Voted D’Ambrosio. Don’t really know why, he impressed me last year even when he was driving a car that makes it VERY hard to make an impression at all. But if you consider how quickly people forgot about Di Grassi while still talking about D’Ambrosio, I think it’s fair to say he did great last year. He’s probably not the greatest racing driver to have ever lived, but I’m sure he’ll do great. He comes across as a very nice guy in interviews too.

  4. javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 17th May 2012, 14:09

    My poetic nature screams for el Rubino to return. The #2 seat at Ferrari has a permenant imprint of his a$$ already :-)

    • AJ (@aj13) said on 17th May 2012, 14:30

      I agree – they need someone – THIS YEAR – that will be able to get the best out of this car – and RB has driven many different cars in his illustrious career

  5. duncanmonza (@duncanmonza) said on 17th May 2012, 14:11

    If it was to be a young driver, then it would no doubt be Perez. But that would be risky for his career and for Ferrari. Webber is an experienced option but the Toro Rosso drivers won’t be ready for RBR yet so Red Bull will keep him.
    I voted Sutil because his career can not be ruined by Alonso because he is currently without a seat but he is experienced, dependable and consistent. A perfect number 2 for Alonso.

  6. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 17th May 2012, 14:17

    Fisichella was supposedly an underrated driver and championship material, until Alonso buried him in 2005, and even deeper in 2006.
    Piquet Jr. had a lot of potential until Alonso buried him in 2008-09.
    Grosjean looked very promising based on his junior F1 achievements, until Alonso buried him in 2009. He came back to the sport 3 years later and finally has a bit of credibility.

    Don’t go to Ferrari Checo, he’s evil!

  7. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 17th May 2012, 14:20

    Jules Bianchi

    • Tom N (@nipz) said on 18th May 2012, 18:01

      I agree, he damn quick, I think there’s a lot of potential in the Frenchman – but I really want to see more of his FP1 drives before I’m fully certain.
      As for Ferrari though, bringing a new driver to the team, could do Ferrari great credit, showing more confidence in the whole team than they have done for the past few years.
      To me, bringing in an experienced driver alongside Alonso seems silly since even the top drivers would struggle to achieve near his standard straight away, possibly reflecting badly on the driver, the car and/or the team (unlike a new driver who is more like a clean slate).
      Fernando is a clear leader character and I think bringing a new young, quick driver that can learn at that level is key. If he starts too quick we could have a repeat of the ugly McLaren/Hamilton episode and if he isn’t ready it could be the unfortunate Renault/Grosjean situation. I think that level is where Bianchi could be by the end of the season, so it could be a solid move for the short term and long term.
      The seasons still young though and a lot could change between now and then, but at this moment that’s who I favour.

  8. moshbeard (@moshbeard) said on 17th May 2012, 14:21

    if I were running Ferrari I would seriously consider putting Sutil in there for the rest of this season, possibly kicking him out if he doesn’t perform since many drivers wouldn’t leave mid-season.

  9. Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th May 2012, 14:22

    I don’t know who they have in mind, whether it be for sometime this season or for 2013, in terms of if they already know they want the best driver they can get to try to challenge and push FA, or they want a relative newby that will be a natural number two to FA. It feels to me like they like FM too much to cut him loose mid-season, and would rather see him starting to do better at Monaco and beyond than have to make a tough decision mid-season. But stranger things have happened. I hope they will seek out a top driver and not a natural number two to FA. I always hope for that on all the top teams. Hated the MS/Ferrari philosophy which was the most extreme example. If they replace FM mid-season it won’t be with a top driver.

    My fantasy option, which I think would be huge for Ferrari and for F1, which struck me when I saw these two drivers having a laugh together at the Ferrari tribute to Gilles, would be to see a return to F1, ala MS, of none other than Jacques Villeneuve.

  10. f1alex (@f1alex) said on 17th May 2012, 14:23

    I would’ve voted for Perez but I don’t think it would be such a good idea at the moment. I think he should stick with Sauber until the end of this year and then consider a move to a bigger team. This is because the Sauber has shown it has clear pace anyway and has the potential to get good results on its own, so moving to a new team and having to adjust to a new car, mechanics, engineers etc would do him more harm than good in my opinion. We’ve seen in the past that drivers who have moved to Ferrari mid season (Badoer and Fisichella being the two most recent examples) have struggled to get used to it in the time needed, so maybe it would be best for him to stay put for the moment, and consider a move in the next year or two.

  11. rahul1810 (@rahul1810) said on 17th May 2012, 14:25

    Paul Di Resta can be a likely candidate. Force India Reserve Jules Bianchi is another Ferrari protege who has performed very well and whome they have publicised well too. To buy Di Resta out of his contract, they may sweeten it for Force India by offering some compensation for Bianchi. Vijay Mallya having a financially embattled airline would be more than happy with this. Though there is a possibility of a Maerceds clause in Di Resta’s contract. Another thing that goes for him is experience of winning championships and moreover beating Vettel as team mate.

    Heikki is OK, but I don’t think he will be in contention considering how woefully short he fell off Hamilton. There chance at top of championship is bleak, but they would want a driver who with Alonso can atleast take them to 2nd or 3rd and not be leapfrogged by French or German teams

    A cheap and effective but temp solution would be Sutil if they want to go there. They may offer him a contract till end of the season. He has been good in a fast car, but may be a little rusty and that may not go in his favor.

  12. matt90 (@matt90) said on 17th May 2012, 14:30

    Tough one. I really don’t want to see a driver I actually like go and race for Ferrari. Partly because they’re Ferrari, but mainly because I don’t want to see Perez playing second fiddle to anybody, especially Alonso. Genuinely don’t know who to pick.

  13. TimG (@timg) said on 17th May 2012, 14:31

    The more fundamental question Ferrari need to ask themselves here is just what sort of team do they want to run?

    Are they intending to build themselves around Alonso with a strong, reliable but generally unthreatening number two as back up? If so, Mark Webber, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock and (maybe) Vitaly Petrov would fit the bill. As would Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello, but I just can’t see Ferrari bringing back two drivers so clearly past their F1 sell-by dates. Webber has been the subject of recent speculation and he would probably be the best choice for the Scuderia, subject to him being able to rub along with Alonso.

    Are they intending to pick an up and coming young driver, who can be groomed to become Ferrari’s next lead driver after Alonso retires/moves on? If so, the main options would be Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, Paul Di Resta or Nico Hulkenberg and, of those, Perez would be the obvious candidate. The only question mark being whether being launched into the spotlight so early in his career would do more harm than good.

    Or are they intending to field the best two drivers they can lay their hands on and give them completely equal treatment, as is the policy at McLaren or (in the glory days, at least) Williams? If so, the main candidates would be Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton. The problem here is that Kubica still hasn’t returned from injury, let alone been able to prove that he’s still something special, and there’s previous between Hamilton and Alonso which makes that pairing highly unlikely.

    • matthewf1 (@) said on 17th May 2012, 14:47

      Petrov lol – hey Fernando, remember the guy who cost you the 2010 title…well….surprise!

  14. Katz, Tim said on 17th May 2012, 14:45

    I just hope Massa doesn’t read this site. How dispiriting it would be to read a poll nominating your successor!
    @Keith, could you put my name on the list please? It’s the only hope I’ve got!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th May 2012, 14:55

      I imagine he’s pretty inured to it by now. After all how many headlines have there now been linking different drivers to his seat in the past two years? Off the top of my head I can think of Perez, Rosberg, Webber and Button. And I didn’t see this D’Ambrosio one Ferrari mentioned.

  15. Fixy (@fixy) said on 17th May 2012, 14:49

    I read the question wrong – I thought it was for this year, so I chose to keep Massa. However, I want them to keep him for 2013 (if he performs well this year).

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