Felipe Massa’s Ferrari career will move into an eighth season after the team today awarded the Brazilian driver a one-year contract extension.
The announcement had been expected for several weeks in light of the 31-year-old’s timely return to form, which has seen him finish in the points in each of the last six grands prix and help Ferrari move ahead of McLaren into second place in the constructors’ championship.
Luca di Montezemolo had said yesterday that he would sit down with Massa at Maranello for a meeting today to discuss his future before making a final decision on it, and the expected confirmation that the Brazilian will continue driving alongside Fernando Alonso into 2013 duly arrived this afternoon.
Speaking in wake of the announcement on Ferrari’s website, team principal Stefano Domenicali strongly hinted that Massa’s revival had been imperative to securing his future and that he was certain the long-serving driver would repay the faith placed in him.
“We are pleased to have extended our relationship with Felipe for a further year,” he said “He has been part of our family for over a decade and has shown, especially in this recent part of the season, that he is once again competitive at the highest level, which is what is expected of every driver who gets behind the wheel of a Ferrari.
“We have always supported Felipe, even in the most difficult moments of his career and we are certain of his worth and are sure he will know how to repay the confidence this renewal proves we have in him.”
Massa himself described Ferrari as his “racing family” and vowed that “the team and also all the fans can rest assured that I will do all in my power to help the Scuderia reach the targets it sets itself each year.”
The short-term nature of the deal comes as little surprise with Ferrari clearly wanting to keep its longer-term options open, with Italian sources likely to take this as further indication that the door is very much firmly open for Sebastian Vettel in 2014.
Force India duo Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta were thought to have been put under consideration by Ferrari over recent months but the team had clearly wanted to give Massa, a driver they have been steadfastly loyal to over a decade since they first signed him as a test driver, the opportunity to prove he deserved one more season at Maranello.
Alonso had been particularly vocal in recent weeks in support of Massa’s case for a renewal, describing the drivers who had been linked to the Brazilian’s seat as “little names” in comparison to the 11-time grand prix winner. In reference to all the speculation that has surrounded the second Ferrari seat this season, the Spaniard has since tweeted: “After 8 different teammates.. Felipe staying is another example of what I always say; Do not believe anything you read, unless it’s official.”
The Massa announcement means that both Ferrari and Red Bull will field unchanged driver line-ups once more next season, while McLaren and Mercedes will have to bed in new arrivals following Lewis Hamilton’s decision to move to the latter.