Felipe Massa secures Ferrari future, deal imminent
|By Jonathan Noble||Sunday, October 14th 2012, 10:30 GMT|
Felipe Massa has secured his future at Ferrari, with team principal Stefano Domenicali revealing on Sunday night that the outfit will make an announcement about its driver plans imminently.
Massa's place at Ferrari has been the subject of intense speculation for much of the season, on the back of a difficult start to the campaign where he could not match the pace or results of team-mate Fernando Alonso.
However, a stronger second half to the campaign and impressive drives in Japan and Korea have sealed his place at the team - with it understood that a deal will be sorted out imminently.
Ferrari's decision to retain Massa for next year, which could be confirmed ahead of the Indian Grand Prix, leaves the way open for Nico Hulkenberg to join Sauber for 2013.
Hulkenberg had been favourite to move to Maranello if the team elected to replace Massa, but his focus will now be on finalising a contract with Sauber - with a provisional agreement believed to have been finalised.
Massa himself said on Sunday that he was convinced he would be staying on as Alonso's team-mate for another year.
When asked by AUTOSPORT if he had any doubts that he would not be at Ferrari, he said: "No. I don't have. But anyway we wait for the time.
"When you get the OK from both directions that is when you are sure. I think it will be pretty soon to be honest."
Domenicali has also dropped the firmest hint yet that Massa will be staying - as he suggested matters could be finalised soon.
"Very soon you will know what will be our position on that respect," he said.
Speaking more about the reasons behind Massa's recent lift in form, Domenicali said: "I think that for sure he understands now better the car, he understands better the tyres – and also the fact Felipe is a very, very strong driver because otherwise we would have already taken a different decision.
"So I feel that now when Felipe has under his control the understanding of the tyres and car, he performs at the level he should."