Felipe Massa ignoring speculation Ferrari are to replace him

 

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has shrugged off mounting speculation the team is preparing to replace him, saying he is accustomed to premature reports of the end of his Formula One career.

Massa's poor performance in last weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix had heightened expectations that Ferrari will fire him, with Italian media already speculating upon a replacement.

"I really don't care," Massa said today ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. "I don't drive thinking about what others are thinking or saying about me."

"I'm doing my job, thinking about doing my best in the car, which is not what happened in Australia."

Massa said there was similar speculation early in the 2008 season, and he went on to come within one turn of winning the world championship.

"I arrived here in 2008 and I was out of Ferrari (yet) it was my best season," he said. "I don't care about (speculation). Things change very quickly from one day to another."

Following that strong 2008 season, Massa was involved in a freak, life-threatening accident in 2009 and since then had been very much in the shadow of teammate Fernando Alonso.

Last year, he became the first Ferrari driver in 19 years to go through an entire season without a podium finish, meaning he entered this season under intense pressure to justify his place in the team.

He had an unhappy first race in Australia last week, spinning out in practice, qualifying in a lowly 16th place and spending much of the race fighting off regular back markers before a race-ending collision with Williams' Bruno Senna.

Sauber driver Sergio Perez is high on the list of potential replacements. Adrian Sutil, Jarno Trulli and former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello have also been linked with Massa's seat. They have more experience on their side than Perez and all drove in F1 last season. But Perez is part of Ferrari's Young Driver Program, has tested for the team and at 22 years of age is seen to have the most upside.

Asked Thursday about speculation of a move to Ferrari, the Mexican driver said "they are only rumors."

"It's only the first race of the season, so it's very early to say this or speculate," Perez said. "I am very focussed with my team, with Sauber, and we have a great car."

Michael Schumacher, Massa's former teammate and mentor at Ferrari and an icon of the Italian team, urged Ferrari to exercise patience and not make judgments based just on the Melbourne performance.

"If you look at all the winter testing, the two (Ferrari) drivers were very close together," Schumacher said Thursday. "To see the big difference we saw in Melbourne, I can only assume there must have been something not right for him.

"I trust he will (improve) and the team will do the utmost to give him the support he needs."

Despite having only a one-week break between the first two races of the season, Ferrari have gone to the effort and expense to ship an entirely new chassis out for Massa to use this weekend, with many parts also being replaced.

"We really think its the right thing to do," Massa said. "Every time I drove this car, I never had the problems I had in Australia — I could not drive after the first lap."

Reuters

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