When Felipe Massa was taken out of commission at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month, the questions on everyone's mind was who would replace him and when he'd be back. With regards to the former, Ferrari is one of the few teams on the grid that doesn't have a junior driver development program in place. The team doesn't usually have a problem getting the best drivers, but when disaster (literally) struck, the Scuderia was left without options.
Michael Schumacher prepared to come out of retirement to fill his prodigy's seat, but his own lingering physical issues prevented that, leaving Ferrari with little choice than to promote one of its aging test drivers – finally opting for Luca Badoer after his ten-year hiatus from active racing instead of its other test driver, recent Le Mans winner Marc Gene – with less than satisfactory results. After finishing just about dead last in both of the races he's contested so far, Ferrari has admitted that it's looking at other options for the rest of the season. Giancarlo Fisichella is said to be one possible Ferrari driver and could stay on in the long term to replace Badoer as test driver as well. Robert Kubica is being touted as another, while still more reports suggest that Fernando Alonso could bolt from Renault a bit early and take up residence with Ferrari.
If these rumors seemed at first a little odd with Massa first rumored to return by the upcoming Italian Grand Prix and then readjusted to the subsequent Brazilian Grand Prix – the home races for the team and driver respectively – it now looks like Felipe won't be back this season at all. After undergoing tests at the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Massa is scheduled to undergo plastic surgery to repair a fractured section of skull resulting from the incident in Hungary. Tellingly, Ferrari says they're looking forward to Massa's return for the start of next season.
That's all in the short term, however, and Ferrari is keen to avoid such strategic mistakes in the future. Accidents happen, and the team needs to be prepared, so its looking into setting up a junior driver development program that would give them access to a pool of emerging talent for the future.
[Source: Ferrari via Autosport; F1-Live]
OK from Miami for Felipe
Maranello, 1st September 2009 – It was a long day yesterday for Felipe Massa, seen by doctors. The Ferrari driver flew to Miami on Sunday for some important check ups carried out by Professor Stephen Olvey, Head of the Jackson Memorial Hospital Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit.
The checks (neurometric and impact tests, cognitive capacity tests) all had a positive outcome, just like the eye exam: everything is in order for Felipe to get back to racing. Now there has just to be carried out some plastic surgery at the brain box, where the spring at the accident at the Hungaroring hit his helmet. The surgery will take place in the upcoming days. After a short convalescence Felipe can then gradually start with physical preparations.
"I'm very happy about the results," Felipe told the official Ferrari website before boarding the plane back to Sao Paulo. "After the small surgery in the next days I can finally start to go to the gym to get back into shape and drive some tests in karts. On the track with a Formula 1 single-seater? Let's take it step by step: at the moment I'm concentrating on taking up physical activities, which is a great step forward."
Naturally the results were received with great joy and satisfaction at Maranello with the prospect to be able to count on Felipe 100% for the start of the next racing season.