October 29th, 2013 (f1plus/Bruno Ferreira).- Felipe Massa’s current situation is slightly different than the one when Ferrari announced Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the team in 2014.
One and a half month ago there was a realistic chance of the Brazilian hanging up his gloves in F1 and look for another option somewhere else. But now he comes from one of the most competitive races of his season after finishing 4th at Indian GP and his future seems to be very close to being sorted out – and it would be still in F1.
Last week, the motorsport publications in Brazil were taken by several strong rumors indicating that Felipe Massa was on the verge to be announced as Williams’ new driver for 2014 season, replacing Pastor Maldonado.
The remarkable blog Diario Motorsport, which last year also anticipated that Bruno Senna would leave Williams, guaranteed that a five-year deal (yes, five years) has already been signed.
Obviously Massa’s staff has denied any suggestion that the agreement has taken place. Alessandro Aluni Bravi, the right-hand man of the manager Nicolas Todt, told O Estado de S.Paulo’s correspondent Livio Oricchio that the reports are “fantasy”. “Felipe made clear that Williams would be a good option [in 2014], but there isn’t any agreement already signed”, he said.
“First of all, who signs a five-year deal in F1? Sebastian Vettel renewed his agreement with Red Bull for two more seasons and Lewis Hamilton is committed to Mercedes for three years. This is a inaccurate information and it just harms the negotiations.”
Bravi's statement is not a surprise as it’s quite rare to see any manager confirming such thing before the official announcement – especially because Massa’s manager Todt is also the responsible for Maldonado’s career. Furthermore, he has a point because the information is odd due to the length of the contract. After all, Massa, 32, is not a young boy anymore and five years is an eternity in F1.
However, Diario Motorsport’s owner, Americo Teixeira Jr (who is also the PR man of IndyCar star Helio Castroneves) is a veteran journalist of the business and has good connections in motorsport, especially on what concerns Brazilian drivers.
Maldonado doesn’t hide he’s unhappy with Williams’ current form, even suggesting that he would rather stay at home in 2014 instead of having another poor season as 2013.
Moreover, the wealthy support he receives from the petrol company PDVSA (something like £ 30 millions per year) is under investigation by Venezuelan authorities and could be in threat for the future. Finally, in the last week Felipe Massa started to follow Williams F1 in his personal Twitter account. Is the puzzle being formed?
Let’s imagine this entire situation is true. The move could be interesting for Massa because he would be able to remain in F1 with a promising package, with Williams being powered by Mercedes V6 Turbo (which is believed to be the strongest power unit) and under the supervision of the veteran Pat Symonds.
Racing alongside the inexperienced Valtteri Bottas would put Massa in a benchmark role within the team, similar of what happened with his countryman Rubens Barrichello in 2010. Of course, the situation may seem disappointing as the 2008 runner-up tried to get the seat at Lotus – which now is disputed between Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg (or so is the rumor)– but anyway it would represent a valuable opportunity for Massa to carry on with his job and rebuild his name in F1.
On the other hand, Massa, who is used to enjoy the best resources from Ferrari, would have to deal with an unprecedented situation for him, as Williams faces financial doubts year after year. If PDVSA pulls off the plug of F1, he would need to use his influence to attract sponsorship from Brazil, which is not very easy as the big companies are focusing on the two major events to be held in the country: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
There are several rumors in Brazil that the petrol company Petrobras (a former Williams partner from 1998 to 2008) could be on board. Although the Massa’s situation is still uncertain, it seems that both the Brazilian and the Grove squad will have a crucial year in 2014. However, this scenario could work out in both ways, as the team, with a promising package, would have in its cockpit an experienced and quick driver thirsty for redemption.