@adam-tate – There’s maybe only one driver who could reasonably step in to replace Massa at the moment: Sergio Perez. For all their mistakes in being late to the drveir development party, Ferrari made a smart move in picking up Perez when they did. The Sauber C31 is a lot like the F2012 in that it appears to be very sensitive to changes, though it is a lot more forgiving than the F2012. Perez has the bizarre ability to produce the same lap times on hard tyres as the leaders do on softs, but he can do it without murdering the tyres. Just once, I’d like to see Sauber put him on a two-stop strategy and tell him to go bananas.
The problem Perez faces is that Ferrari is a team that is defiantely built around Alonso, and he’s staying there until 2017. If Massa were to leave the team at the end of the season and Perez replaced him, he would have to go four years before he could take on the role of lead driver. And that’s a shame, because given a front-running car, I think Perez could one day be World Champion. The problem is that he can’t really move to Red Bull, because they favour Vettel, and McLaren isn’t really an option because Perez is sponsored by Claro/Telmex, who are (probably) competing with Vodafone through Verizon (though Carlos Slim has a limited partnership with Verizon).
I know it seems like I’m drifting away from the topic here, but there is a point in all of this: Ferrari needs an attitude change. They’re holding onto Massa when he probably should have been released last year. They have a development program with talented drivers, but they’re not using it; instead, they’re adopting a wait-and-see approach. They can hardly expect Perez to wait around forever, especially if the Slims buy Sauber, and get Perez into McLaren in exchange for a Marussia-like technical tie-in. Meanwhile, they’re giving up all of their talented people – Dyer, Costa, et al – as soon as things start going wrong, whilst the whole thing is being run by someone who is using the team for his own political ambitions: Luca di Montezemolo. Just look at his comments about how Ferrari would support customer cars if they could dictate who drove them, in which case they would pick an Italian. There are no Italian drivers who are good enough for Formula 1 at the moment, but Luca wants Ferrari to be seen as getting an Italian back into Formula 1 (just so long as they’re not the ones who have to put up with a poor driver), so that he can advance his own political career. I’m surprised Enzo Ferrari hasn’t come back to life to smite him for it. He’d never tolerate someone using the team for their own ends.
In short, what Ferrari need is an attitude change. The approach to Formula 1 has changed, but they’ve been slow to pick it up. They need to start going through the junior ranks and finding the really talented guys – Korjus, Sirotkin, Calado. But they won’t. They’re too conservative for that, more willing to settle for third in the WCC when they could take a gamble on a young driver and come second if they’re right of fourth if they’re wrong. Ferrari just aren’t Ferrari anymore.