Felipe Massa signs one-year contract extension with Ferrari
Brazilian to continue as partner for Alonso through the 2013 campaign
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 17/10/12 9:53am
The composition of the 2013 F1 grid has moved a substantial step closer to completion after Felipe Massa signed a one-year contract extension with Ferrari for next season.
The Brazilian, whose future looked bleak for most of the current campaign, has been rewarded with a new deal following a sharp upturn in form in recent weeks. Massa's second-place finish at Suzuka accounted for his first podium finish in over two years and he followed that result with a strong run to fourth place at Korea this weekend.
Massa expressed his delight that he would be staying at Maranello for an eighth season in a row and promised to repay the team for their continued trust in him.
"I am very happy to have reached this agreement," he said.
"Ferrari is my racing family and throughout my entire time in Formula 1, I have always driven cars powered by engines built in Maranello: I can't see myself driving cars propelled by anything else!
"First and foremost, I want to thank President Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali, who had faith in me and who have always supported me, even at the most difficult moments. The team and also all the fans can rest assured that I will do all in my power to help the Scuderia reach the targets it sets itself each year."
Team boss Stefano Domenicali, who has publicly backed Massa throughout the season, says that in recent months the 2008 title runner-up had returned to the level of form required for a Ferrari driver.
"We are pleased to have extended our relationship with Felipe for a further year," the Italian said. "He has been part of our family for over a decade and has shown, expecially in this recent part of the season, that he is once again competitive at the highest level, which is what is expected of every driver who gets behind the wheel of a Ferrari.
"After eight different teammates, Felipe staying is another example of what I always say: Do not believe anything you read, unless it's official"
"We have always supported Felipe, even in the most difficult moments of his career and we are certain of his worth and are sure he will know how to repay the confidence this renewal proves we have in him."
The news effectively closes the top end of the driver market for 2013 with the line-ups of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes all now settled. An opening could yet emerge at Lotus with the team losing patience with Romain Grosjean following his spate of costly first-lap crashes but it's still widely expected that the Frenchman will continue to partner Kimi Raikkonen next season.
Further down the grid, Sauber are poised to confirm the capture of Nico Hulkenberg from Force India with youngster Esteban Gutierrez tipped to be appointed Kamui Kobayashi's replacement.
Force India, in turn, are expected to retain Paul di Resta, whose hopes of making a step up the F1 ladder have been decisively ended by the news of Massa's re-appointment, and then choose from a long list of candidates - including former driver Adrian Sutil and the team's current third driver, Jules Bianchi - to be Hulkenberg's successor.
Yet while Massa's future has been secured for another season, the fact that his deal has only been extended for one more year will only heighten the ongoing speculation that the team are intent on recruiting Sebastian Vettel for the 2014 campaign.
It has been widely reported since the summer that the World Champion has signed a pre-contract agreement with the Scuderia, with his current Red Bull deal understood to contain an opt-out clause if the team fall back in the Constructors' Championship next season.
The 2013 merry-go-round may be winding down with the top seats for next season all now filled, but true to a sport which doesn't believe in slowing down, the 2014 rumour-mill is already whirring into life.
How the 2013 grid is shaping up
Red Bull: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
McLaren: Jenson Button and Sergio Perez.
Ferrari: Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Still to be confirmed: