Felipe will always be a No. 1 at Ferrari (stifles laugh)

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Luca di Montezemolo’s said today that Felipe Massa “is and will always stay a number one driver for Ferrari,” a show of support that is getting pretty healthy coverage at the usual motor sport sites and via the Twitter.

Anyone believe him?

I’m sorry to be skeptical, especially because I’m more or less fond of Felipe, but I don’t think any tire issues or slow starts this season mean anything. As soon as Ferrari brought in Fernando Alonso — a two-time champ with a reputation for being the alpha dog — Felipe Massa immediately was the No. 2.

Would beating Fernando change that? Maybe, for the short term. (Until Fernando pulled out the “clause” in his contract!)

Here’s Luca in full from the Ferrari site:

“Fernando sounded very focused and determined, just like the whole team,” the President told ferrari.com. “It’s an important time and I’m sure that everyone will give everything they have in order to achieve our objectives. Felipe is and will always stay a number one driver for Ferrari. I expect the performances of a number one driver from him – both in the next four races and, with different tyres, next year. Those will be crucial to bring us wins next season and to take important points from our opponents in the battle for this world championship.”

(I have to digress one second. The lead-in to that quote at the site talks about how Luca wanted to have some close contact with both drivers, but he couldn’t do it in person “but technology came to his help courtesy of the telephone.” I love that image. Maybe it’s one of those times when a colloquial phrase doesn’t quite translate, but even calling a telephone “technology” is hilarious. If he’d Skyped them, maybe…)

I understand and appreciate what Luca is trying to do, but I think there is the possibility of this backfiring since we all know full well that Massa is the No. 2 driver — and if Alonso wins the title this year? We might be looking at Massa as the No. 2.5 driver by comparison, wishing he had Rubens Barrichello’s status at the team.

Perhaps it is a sense of damning with faint praise.

Now, I know Felipe is remaining feisty and says Fernando isn’t better than him, it’s all the tires and that Felipe just hasn’t lived up to his own expectations. But I’m afraid Felipe might want to take some instruction from these final races when he is without any doubt going on the grid to support Alonso’s pursuit of the drivers title. (The constructors isn’t going to happen.)

Next year, Felipe will be racing for that team win… and pretty quickly aiming to help out Fernando again. (And I feel bad for him.)

Unless he’s the No. 1 at Renault, of course!

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