Felipe Massa looked rather dejected all weekend.
He was asked after the race by Italian colleagues whether this was because of the rumours that Ferrari was thinking of replacing him with Robert Kubica,
“It’s not a question of being slower than Alonso, it’s that I was completely out of my rhythm. Behind Button, the McLaren had better traction and we lacked grip in the final sector. Then I had a problem with my front wing which certainly didn’t help.”
Massa damaged his front wing in contact with Karun Chandhok’s car, but not sufficiently to require replacement. Massa’s point about his life getting tougher since the tyres went a step harder from Bahrain onwards is interesting. In Bahrain Bridgestone brought the super soft and the medium and since then it has been the soft and the hard. Massa said last night that he is finding it tricky to switch the hard tyres on, which is a question of downforce and set up. In Monaco we will have supersoft and medium again.
Ironically in Alonso’s hands, the Ferrari seemed to be stronger on the hard tyre, something team boss Stefano Domenicali acknowledged. He said that it was strange that his two drivers had very different feelings on the tyres.
“I’m not concerned because what we have to do is to make sure that the car is the one he is confident to drive,” said Domenicali. “This weekend for the first time this was not the case. He started to complain about the grip from Friday.
“We need to look a what needs to be done in terms of set up, preparation and downforce. If we give him a good car he’s very good and strong, I’m pretty sure about it.”
However I noticed a throwaway comment in Domenicali’s press briefing, which is worth filing away. Talking about the dominance of the Red Bull he said, “They did a good step, but in all honesty today we saw the performance of Mark Webber, so we need to keep that as a reference on our side.”
Looking at the context of the quote he goes on to say that Red Bull has had the pole at every race, but only lies third in the championship. So the Webber line sits there on its own without any real context.
Massa is clearly under some pressure at the moment and although he’s scored points in every race, he’s already 18 points behind Alonso who has also had one retirement with engine failure and by any analysis he has not been able to match his team mate this year.
Massa has shown his quality in 2008. The seat is still his if he can fill it, but should he not pull himself out of this slump and Ferrari decide to replace him, the most important thing is to get the right driver to partner Alonso, because it’s very clear that they have hired the Spaniard to win things for them. What they need alongside is an uncomplicated, unpolitical but very fast driver to push him.
Kubica is certainly one option, but I wonder whether Webber might be another. This quote along with a few other things I heard privately in the last few weeks make me wonder whether Ferrari is tracking Webber as a possible candidate for Alonso’s team mate. It’s not an obvious fit, in marketing terms Australia isn’t much use for Ferrari or FIAT, but Alonso and Webber go back a long way to their Renault days and there is a lot of respect there.