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Domenicali gives beleaguered Massa vote of confidence

Martin Williamson March 28, 2012 « Bahrain predicts 'life as normal' at 2012 race | Karthikeyan hits back at Vettel »
Felipe Massa has had a vote of confidence from Stefano Domenicali © Getty Images

Felipe Massa has returned to Ferrari's Maranello base amid growing speculation he is set to be replaced soon after a poor start to the season.

Massa's future was already a talking point after disappointing performances in 2011 but Ferrari continue to put a positive face on the situation despite him not having had a podium finish in 23 races.

"I well remember that, four years ago, in fact right after a Malaysian Grand Prix, which was won for us by Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe was more or less in the same situation as today," Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali told the team's website. "The papers were demanding his immediate replacement and he managed to react in the best way possible, thanks to support from the team, which saw him win two of the next three races.

"We remember how that particular season ended, with the Brazilian actually world champion, even if it was just for a few seconds, while we took our 16th constructors' title.

"Felipe has changed his plans and, instead of heading home to see his family in Brazil, he will be in Maranello tomorrow to work alongside the engineers to calmly analyse everything that happened in these past two races, trying to identify why he was not able to deliver what he is capable of. That's the right spirit and we are here, ready to help him."

In 2008 Massa had retired in the opening two races but went on to win six races - and take ten podiums - before being pipped to the title by Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the season.

But for all Domenicali's upbeat remarks, he will be conscious that Massa now is a shadow of the driver he was four years ago and the only question is how much more time he will be given to see if he can find some spark of his old form. On the evidence of this season to date, his decline continues.