First, the good news: Felipe Massa’s left eye seems to be OK. His doctor reports that he’s opened it and seems more alert and communicative in multiple languages with family and friends, which is fantastic news.
But it’s still unlikely that he’ll return to F1 for the 2009 season. Hopefully he’ll be able to race again once he’s fully recovered, but in the meantime, Ferrari have to find someone else to fill in for Massa alongside teammate Kimi Räikkönen. Luckily, there are 4 weeks until the next F1 event, which will be the European Grand Prix at Valencia, so Ferrari have a little time to think things through.
Who will it be?
Niki Lauda said what a lot of F1 fans are undoubtedly feeling yesterday: “Who is available? There is nobody available anywhere near Michael [Schumacher]’s performance.” Schumacher’s manager, Willi Weber, suggested Marc Gene or Luca Badoer might be able to fill in since they are currently Ferrari’s two test drivers.
This part of the story might have ended there, except that Schumacher’s spokeswoman, Sabine Kehm, said in an official statement that Schumacher would consider the possibility if Ferrari were to ask him. She then went on to state further that he had no wish to interfere in Ferrari’s decisionmaking process.
Following Kehm’s statement, intrepid F1 fans might be forgiven for thinking the next part of this story might come from the Ferrari stable—but no. Willi Weber told the Daily Mail, “Whoever sits in the car at the next race in Valencia, it will not be Michael Schumacher. I am not 100% sure; I am 200% sure.” He also went on to add that Schumacher’s racing at Valencia would be against his cautious, perfectionist style as he’s not so much as driven this year’s car even once as of the time of Weber’s statement. But he did leave the door of possibility open for later in 2009 a few hours later by saying, “I have excluded a comeback in Valencia. With regards to Spa and Monza, I would not like to express myself.”
Meanwhile, the possibility of Fernando Alonso filling the vacant seat at Ferrari for Valencia has neither been confirmed nor denied by Alonso himself or anyone qualified to speak on his behalf. However, Bernie Ecclestone and Niki Lauda have both expressed opinions that they think it would be a good idea, should the Renault ban be upheld for Valencia. As it’s Alonso’s home race, the Spanish press and fans have understandably been quite upset at the idea that their countryman might not be able to race in his home grand prix. Could this be the best solution for all parties concerned? As ever in F1, the answer will undoubtedly be more complicated and more drama-filled than a Degrassi marathon.