Ferrari confirmed on October 16th that Felipe Massa's contract has been extended until the end of the 2010 season. The Brazilian, who previously raced for Sauber, debuted in competition with the Scuderia alongside Michael Schumacher in 2006 and took his maiden F1 victory in Turkey. He capped last season by winning in Brazil, the first home driver to do so since Ayrton Senna in 1993.
This year he has so far scored three victories and was a championship contender until Japan. He will be fourth overall in the drivers' standings no matter what happens in Brazil this coming weekend. "Ferrari announces that it has extended its agreement with the driver Felipe Massa through to the end of the 2010 racing season," said a statement from the team.
"Felipe has been contracted to the Scuderia since 2001. To date, he has taken part in 34 Grands Prix for the team. He has won five times, had sixteen podium places and finished 25 times in the points. He has secured eight pole positions and the same number of race fastest laps, with a total of 166 points scored."
The announcement appears to negate rumours that Ferrari had an eye on Fernando Alonso to replace Massa. The Spaniard seems unlikely to stay with McLaren and speculation suggested he could step into Massa's seat even as soon as next year. However, Ferrari chief Jean Todt always denied that such a scenario was being considered as both Massa and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were already contracted for 2008.
Massa wants to repeat his home win at Interlagos on Sunday but Raikkonen is still in the title fight and Massa is bearing that in mind. "For sure, Kimi still has a chance of winning the championship, even if it is a small one and it will be difficult," he said. "My personal target is victory, but if we see any possibility of helping the team to win the Driver's title, then of course I will be doing what I can."
"But this is not the way to approach the race weekend. The best way to approach it is to do what I have done at every race which is to think in terms of winning the race. If the miracle happens and maybe both McLarens are nowhere, then me and Kimi could finish first and second respectively and still give Ferrari the result it wants."
If Raikkonen wins the race, in order to claim the title he would need to have Alonso finish third or lower and McLaren's championship leader Lewis Hamilton to be sixth or lower. If Raikkonen is second he would need Alonso to be lower than third and Hamilton lower than seventh. So if things look like they may be going the Finn's way, Massa could well have an important part to play.