Grapevine: Barrichello, Massa Deals all but Done

The Brazilian F1 media has gone into a frenzy over the prospect of seeing two of their countrymen drive next year for leading Formula One teams, as Felipe Massa's move to Ferrari, in place of BAR-bound Rubens Barrichello, now appears to be a certainty

Grapevine: Barrichello, Massa Deals all but Done

No one would confirm the moves on the record, but the news received further credence from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who had told Brazilian journalists that both deals - Massa's with Ferrari and Barrichello's with BAR - have already been signed and sealed for 2006.

"That is fantastic for us," one Brazilian reporter told Autosport-Atlas. "It would take us back to the days where we had two drivers in top teams, like we had in the eighties with [Nelson] Piquet and [Ayrton] Senna.

"Always, we had Champions - [Emerson] Fittipaldi, Piquet, Senna - and Rubens is the first one that hasn't won the Championship. But I think the feeling is that with his experience and his speed, it would be interesting to see him in a situation where he can lead a team. And Felipe, although he had a reputation as a driver who had some crashes and some incidents, and to some extent is still thought of like that, is also seen as the new young hope."

Barrichello himself said: "I do not want to get into a discussion about whether I would like to lead a team because the conversation will reach the same point: Am I going BAR or not? But, at present I am driving so well in terms of competitiveness, that everything is happening.

"Jackie Stewart has been one of my mentors and he always said that with the talent that I had, things would come easy one day. And now they are coming easy. I'm feeling very good about my driving and the way I am organising everything; keeping the engineers happy and so on. It's a good time for my career."

Regarding the status of his 2006 negotiations, Rubens merely said: "I've got nothing to say more than I have already said - I've got a contract with Ferrari and that's it. Rumours are going mad and I think that in Brazil they wish to see a change and that's why they keep on saying it."

Barrichello did, however, admit that he is close to BAR sporting director and compatriot Gil de Ferran, adding: "Gil has always been a good friend of mine, I see him socially and I think that's what started all the rumours, but if he has to give a place to all his friends, then BAR will need five or six cars on the grid!"

BAR need to assure themselves of a front-running driver, suggesting the team's and Barrichello's respective situations add up to a deal.

Jenson Button has regularly outperformed Takuma Sato this year and, speaking in Budapest yesterday, BAR's technical director Geoff Willis said: "It is very important for the team's aspirations that we have two drivers capable of getting in the points at every race, capable of getting on the podium at every race, and I think this year it has been a bit difficult for Takuma to be able to show that."

BAR's policy, it seems, has been to sign Barrichello as a banker, and if they can hang onto Button, all well and good. But, increasingly, the chances for that look remote.

Frank Williams has reiterated that he has Button under contract; considers him one of the top three young drivers in F1; and is not prepared to negotiate his position. Ecclestone has also come out publicly in Budapest saying that Button should honour the contract he signed with Williams last year. Rarely does Mr E publicly back the wrong horse...

The Massa situation is perhaps more interesting.

The 24-year-old is undoubtedly quick and turned in a fine drive to score points for Sauber last time out in Hockenheim. His pace impressed Peter Sauber from day one, but his application and ability to learn from his mistakes did not. He benefited from a year as a Ferrari test driver and is managed by Jean Todt's son, Nicolas.

On the other side of the coin, when fuel-adjusted qualifying times are taken into consideration he has not looked especially convincing against Jacques Villeneuve over the last six or seven races and many wonder whether he adds up to a Ferrari driver or not.

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