It’s a little early for the silly season to start (even in F1), but sponsorship dollars just aren’t what they used to be. Teams expect big name drivers to win races and championships, and the days of “next year will be your year” are long gone. Drivers with expiring contracts know that there’s no time like the present to shop around for a new employer.
Felipe Massa, number two man at Ferrari and currently fifth in driver points, is in this unfortunate position. His contract with Ferrari expires at the end of 2010, and speculation has either Mark Webber or Robert Kubica taking Massa’s seat for the 2011 season. Massa has directed his managers to open dialogue with “other strong F1 teams”, whatever that may mean. There aren’t many competitive F1 teams looking to replace drivers for next year, so Massa’s best hope may be to switch seats with either Webber (at Red Bull) or Kubica (at Renault).
Massa’s preference, of course, would be to stay with Ferrari, where he’s built relationships with his mechanics, engineers and support staff. Ferrari team principle Stefano Domenicali is disturbingly quiet on the subject, saying only, “We have a long contract with (Fernando) Alonso, and we trust Massa. He is doing a good job.” Sounds like damning with faint praise to me.