Felipe Massa signs new Ferrari contract but Sebastian Vettel speculation persists


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The Independent Online

Felipe Massa has signed an extended contract to drive for Ferrari for the 2013 season, although speculation remains that Sebastian Vettel will join the Italian side the following year.

Massa has been under pressure ever since returning from a serious injury he sustained at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009. Red Bull's Mark Webber was reportedly in talks to replace him before opting to stay at Red Bull while Force India's Nico Hulkenberg had been linked with the Brazilian's seat.

Earlier this week, the BBC claimed reigning world champion Vettel will usurp the 31-year-old Brazilian in 2014. That remains a possibility despite today's announcement that Massa will partner Fernando Alonso next season.

A short statement from Ferrari read: "Scuderia Ferrari announces it has renewed its contract with the driver Felipe Massa to the end of the 2013 race season.

"The Scuderia's driver line-up for next year is therefore made up of Fernando Alonso and the aforementioned Felipe Massa."

There was no mention of the Italian outfit's intentions beyond next season.

Following the reports that Vettel would leave Red Bull, the reigning constructors champions said: "The BBC article is factually incorrect. Sebastian will be with the team in 2014."

Ferrari have also distanced themselves from the report, as well as claims that Red Bull designer Adrian Newey could also join them.

Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo was quoted as saying: "Today the problem is not with drivers. 2013 is still to come but I don't want to have two roosters in the same henhouse, rather two drivers who race for Ferrari and not for themselves," he said.

"I don't want problems and rivalries, which we didn't have between [Michael] Schumacher and [Eddie] Irvine, between Schumacher and [Rubens] Barrichello, between [Fernando] Alonso and Massa or Massa and Schumi or Massa and [Kimi] Raikkonen. As for Newey, I can say that he is very good at his job but we also managed to win eight constructors' titles in the last 13 championships without him: I have huge faith in our own engineers."

After the Korean Grand Prix, and before today's announcement, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali indicated that Massa would remain next season.

"I am very happy [with Felipe]. He did an excellent race and qualifying, but he has done an excellent job over the last couple of races and this is very promising for the end of the season," he said.

"I think he is understanding the car better, understanding the tyres better.

"Felipe we believe is a very strong driver, otherwise we would already have taken a different decision [for 2013], and now Felipe has the understanding of the car and the tyres under his control, he is performing at the level he should."

Massa endured a dreadful start to the season, collecting just 11 points from the first eight races. However, since the British Grand Prix, Massa has only finished out of the points once in the subsequent eight races to claw his way up to ninth in the drivers' championship with four races of the season left.

The Brazilian, who narrowly missed out on the world title to Lewis Hamilton in 2008, is delighted to be continuing his Ferrari career.

"Ferrari is my sports family. First, I want to thank President Montezemolo and (team principal) Stefano Domenicali, who gave me confidence which I have always maintained, even in the most difficult moments.

"Both the team and the fans can be assured I will do all that is in my power to help the Scuderia to achieve the goals that arise every year."

Domenicali said: "We are pleased to have extended our relationship with Felipe for another year.

"He has shown, especially in the latter part of the season, to be competitive at the highest level, as we expect from every driver behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

"We have always supported Felipe, even in the most difficult moments of his career. We are confident of its value, and that he will repay the trust that has been renewed."

Alonso also declared his delight at the news: "I am so happy to continue another year with Felipe1Massa as a teammate! I'm sure we are the best team! #ForzaFerrari," he wrote on Twitter.

Seemingly in response to the Vettel speculation, Alonso added: "After 8 different teammates.. Felipe staying is another example of what I always say; Do not believe anything you read, unless it's official."

Ferrari moved above McLaren in the constructors' world championship on Sunday and trail Red Bull by 77 points.