Ferrari confirms Massa

Felipe Massa, Hungarian GP 2005

Felipe Massa, Hungarian GP 2005 

 © The Cahier Archive

Ferrari has announced that Felipe Massa will race for the team next year, the deal being based on an option that has existed since 2001. Rubens Barrichello will leave the team at the end of 2005. This is virtual confirmation that Barrichello will be going to BAR-Honda in 2006 and 2007. This leaves BAR in a comfortable position with regard to Jenson Button as Takuma Sato can stay on as second driver if Button has to go to Williams.

The switch of Massa to Ferrari is entirely logical given that the Brazilian is managed by a company owned by the Todt Family. The link between Massa and Todt dates back to August 2003 when Adriano Morini, owner of the Draco Formula 3000 team, announced that he had freed Massa from a management contract which has been in place since 2000. Morini and his Brazilian partner Riccardo Tedeschi had promoted Massa's career through Italian and European Formula Renault championships and the Euro F3000 Championship. Sauber signed him to replace Kimi Raikkonen in 2002, amid rumours of a long-term Ferrari option, but he was too wild for Peter Sauber's taste and ended up as a Ferrari test driver in 2003. The deal between Massa and the Todts that year resulted in Massa going back to Sauber where he has flourished for the last two seasons.

Jenson Button may say that he does not want to go to Williams in 2006 but Sir Frank Williams has given Button a very solid response which indicates that Button's presence in 2006 is required by Williams and is not negotiable. There is talk of legal actions but to continue the fight in the face of Williams's reaction would serve little purpose for Button. BAR cannot get involved for fear of being accused of enticement and to go to court could risk a damages claim from Williams which might run to tens of millions of dollars. It would be much wiser for Jenson to honour the Williams contract he fought so hard for last year (when he wanted to leave BAR) and keep his commitment to Williams. To do anything else would damage his already tarnished reputation.

After that it would be a good idea to take a long and hard look at how career decisions are made in the Button camp to avoid further disappointment and controversy in the future. The recent days have been very damaging for Button with ill-conceived attempts to control coverage of the situation which ended up with a clumsy mess.

The worrying thing is that Button and his advisors seemed to think that Williams would compromise in such a situation. It is worth remembering that Frank Williams and Patrick Head have called the bluff of the likes of Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill in the past. Both World Champions ended up out of the team as a result.

Button says that this is a critical moment for his career. That may be so but it is also a critical time for the Williams team that gave him his first chance in F1 and has invested in him ever since. The Williams attitude is that if Button has made a commitment and the team has built a package around that commitment Button must now live by that decision.

With Button and Mark Webber both contracted to Williams, there would be no room at all for Nick Heidfeld and it is entirely logical for the German to go back to Sauber, where he cut his teeth in 2001, 2002 and 2003. An experienced German F1 driver is the perfect thing for BMW as it heads into a transitional period at Sauber. This would leave the team with Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve, two experienced campaigners and with the potential to change both of them at the end of 2006 when other opportunities may arise.

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