For different reasons, there are at least two drivers out there in 2013 whose careers are at a crossroads. They might go forward – but they might also be about to make a wrong turn. The 2013 season could be decisive for them all.
Felipe Massa: Reprieve Or Stay Of Execution?
What’s the significance of this set of numbers: 2-4-6-7-4-3?
They are the ones that saved Felipe Massa’s job at Ferrari, the team he has been with since 2006. Those are Massa’s placings in the final six races of 2012, starting with his first podium of the season, which came only in round 15 in Japan.
In fact it was the 31-year-old Brazilian’s first visit to the podium since the Korean round of 2010, a 35-race barren spell that had most F1 insiders nodding sagely and saying Massa’s time was up.
Massa hasn’t won a Grand Prix since the final race of 2008, his oh-so-close season when for a few glorious moments he thought he had won not only the Brazilian race but with it the title as well.
Now he has another chance, with Ferrari’s aim being to ensure that he scores far more points this season than the 122 he managed in 2012, and so provides the back-up Alonso needs if he is to win a third title and Ferrari another Constructors’ crown.
Alonso said all along that if Ferrari found another number two, it would have to be someone they knew was better than Massa. But the feeling persists that 2014 will see Felipe in a different-coloured set of overalls…
Paul Di Resta: Marking Time
For much of the latter part of 2012, with Lewis Hamilton increasingly likely to be leaving McLaren, the 26-year-old Scot’s name was in the frame as one of the possible replacements for the 2008 World Champion.
He is, after all, intimately acquainted with the Mercedes engines that power the Woking cars – Force India are also customers of the three-pointed star – and there was also the small matter of his outstanding title-winning performance in the 2010 German Touring Car Championship for Mercedes.
In the end, though, it was teammate Nico Hülkenberg who flew the Force India nest and now Di Resta is left to cool his heels for another season, his third in F1, while waiting for a bigger team to come calling.
Paul brought his Force India home in the points nine times in 2012, the best of them a splendid performance to finish fourth in Singapore, a track where he also excelled in his rookie year in 2011.
Di Resta has a reputation for dourness outside the cockpit, something that may handicap him in today’s image-driven sporting world, but no-one questions his ability in the car.
The plan for 2013? Convert that fourth place into at least one podium, keep Force India ahead of midfield competitors Williams and Sauber, and keep reminding the big boys how good he can be.