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Ferrari boss backs struggling Massa

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa (right) has been with the Italian team since 2006.

Story highlights

  • Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali says Felipe Massa can return to form
  • The Italian driver finished 15th in Malaysia and crashed out in Australia
  • Domenicali reveals Massa is returning to Italy to continue work ahead of race in China
  • The Ferrari chief warns there is still work to do to make the F2012 a competitive car

Last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix was an encouraging race for Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso's victory lifting some of the gloom which had descended over the legendary Italian team after a disappointing preseason.

But while double world champion Alonso celebrated an unlikely triumph in one garage, the mood was considerably more sombre in the camp of his teammate Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian has seen his position at Formula One's most successful team constantly called into question, having struggled to recapture his best form after fracturing his skull during a freak accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

The former Sauber driver's downturn continued with a disappointing 15th-place finish at the Sepang International Circuit, having failed to finish the season-opening race in Australia after colliding with Williams' Bruno Senna.

But Ferrari's team principal Stefano Domenicali has backed the 30-year-old to answer his critics.

"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," Domenicali told the team's official 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."

In 2008, Massa was denied his first world title in heartbreaking circumstances.

He won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix and began celebrating, but was denied the championship by one point as McLaren's British driver Lewis Hamilton overtook Timo Glock on the final corner to finish fifth and steal the glory.

"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 sixteenth Constructors' title," Domenicali said.

He also revealed that, instead of spending time with his family ahead of the next race in China on April 15, Massa is heading to Italy to work with the team at Ferrari's home base.

"He will be in Maranello to work alongside the engineers to calmly analyze everything that happened in these past two races, trying to identify why he was not able to deliver what he is capable of," Domenicali said.

"That's the right spirit and we are here, ready to help him."

Despite a positive result in Malaysia, Domenicali warned there is still work to do to ensure the F2012 car is competitive ahead of the next race in Shanghai.

"I asked all my people to push to the maximum to try to bring forward as much as possible the developments planned for the next few races," he said.

"Having Fernando leading the championship means nothing, and we definitely don't think all our problems have been made to vanish with the wave of a magic wand."