Ferrari has played down rumours it is close to immediately ousting Felipe Massa, insisting it is possible the struggling Brazilian will still be in a red car next year.
On Twitter, the famous Italian team said the latest rumours – including a claim that former Virgin driver Jerome d’Ambrosio is a candidate to replace Massa in 2012 – are “funny”.
But it was Ferrari itself who fuelled the speculation, publishing a statement on its website that read like a warning to Massa.
“It was a very carefully-worded statement, wasn’t it?” said Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary.
“The way this crazy season is going, I really would not be massively shocked if they ditched him mid-season.”
The Swiss newspaper Blick said Monaco next weekend could be the 30-year-old’s last chance to up his game.
And the candidates are lining up.
“Ferrari knows that I’m ready. If they need me or they want me, then they will call me,” Adrian Sutil, who accompanied his manager to last weekend’s Spanish grand prix, said.
The Spanish newspaper El Mundo said some paddock pundits believe “the only reason” Massa still has its seat is because the “name Todt” – a reference not only to Massa’s manager Nicolas but to the FIA president – has a “protective arm” around him.
Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper this week: “Felipe has the full confidence of the team, starting with our president.
“We have not decided who will be our driver in 2013 but Felipe is not ruled out,” he insisted.
Indeed, while some believe Ferrari has hung a sword of Damocles above Massa’s head, others think the Maranello based team have been patient since the Paulista’s recovery from his near-fatal head injuries of 2009.
“We have no evidence that makes us think that Felipe has slowed down because of the accident. Zero,” Colajanni said.
F1 doctor Gary Hartstein agreed: “An experience like that (Hungary 2009) changes you, but you can’t say that’s why Felipe has not won again.”
© RIF | GMM