What Next for Felipe Massa? Assessing His Options for an F1 Seat in 2014
Less than five years ago, the likable Brazilian was celebrating becoming world champion on his home turf until Lewis Hamilton overtook Timo Glock’s struggling Toyota on the penultimate corner of the final lap.
He outdrove the man that is now replacing him that season but couldn’t match Alonso after that, and when a suspension spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn slammed into his helmet during practice for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Massa was lucky to escape with his life.
After emerging from an induced coma, Massa never seemed quite the same racer and has since failed to reproduce the form of 2008. It’s bound to have affected him, as have the crashes at Monaco and Canada this year, Massa even admitting on ESPN F1 his Canada shunt had a psychological effect.
The real question now, then, is what next for Felipe Massa? According to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, Massa is looking for a team that can give him "a competitive car to win many more races and challenge for the Championship.”
But with no seats available at Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren or Ferrari, that seems a tall order.
In this article, we look at the options available to Felipe and whether he should take them or not.
Raikkonen’s move has opened up a seat at Lotus, and this would appear to be the competitive car capable of winning races that Massa is hinting at.
But it seems an unlikely move in that Massa may have to drop his wage demands significantly or bring significant sponsorship with him.
Even so, Lotus will surely be courting the services of the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg, who seems a tailor-made replacement for Raikkonen.
It was Peter Sauber who gave Massa his first big break in Formula One, and with Nico Hulkenberg now likely to fill Raikkonen’s vacant seat at Lotus, this move looks the very best option for Massa.
But Sauber, too, are known to be struggling to attract sponsors, and that puts young Russian hopeful Sergey Sirotkin in pole position to replace Hulkenberg.
And Sauber does not fit the profile of Massa’s “competitive car” capable of challenging for the championship.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Massa’s relationship with Ferrari makes him a possible candidate for Red Bull Racing’s sister team, as Ferrari supply their engines.
However, such a move would be contrary to the ethos of the Red Bull junior programme in promoting young talent and therefore highly unlikely.
Caterham or Marussia
If it’s good enough for Heikki Kovalainen, then shouldn’t it be good enough for Massa? Kovalainen has experienced life at the sharp end of the grid with McLaren, but his love for the game makes him as eager as ever to get back on the grid, albeit with a team at the tail end.
But Kovalainen never came close to achieving the ultimate goal of every F1 driver as Massa has done and seems happy just to still be a part of the sport.
Does Massa have the same desire to start over from the bottom rung of the ladder? Very unlikely.
Team Test Driver
Massa could always follow the examples of other drivers who have lost their drives and bide his time for a year or so, waiting to see what becomes available.
Does Massa have the patience to do the same?
Options Beyond F1
Perhaps if Massa wants to continue to be competitive in motorsport he should take a leaf out of Mark Webber’s book and join a different series.
His good friend Rubens Barrichello made the switch to IndyCar when no drives in F1 were open to him.
He supported Barrichello at the 2012 Sao Paulo 300 and so already has a feel for the series.