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Ferrari put pressure on faltering Massa

May 15, 2012 -- Updated 1613 GMT (0013 HKT)
Brazilian driver Felipe Massa has won 11 grands prix since making his Formula One debut in 2002.
Brazilian driver Felipe Massa has won 11 grands prix since making his Formula One debut in 2002.
  • Ferrari expect Felipe Massa's form to improve at the Monaco Grand Prix
  • The Brazilian has scored just two points so far in the 2012 Formula One season
  • Massa finished 15th at the Spanish Grand Prix and was lapped by his teammate
  • One person remains in hospital following the fire which engulfed the Williams garage at the race

(CNN) -- While Fernando Alonso has overcome the shortcomings of his 2012 Ferrari to be an early title contender, the two-time world champion's teammate Felipe Massa is facing an uncertain future after a disappointing start to the Formula One season.

Massa was again well off the pace at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, despite improvements to the vehicle which helped Alonso finish second and move level on points with championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

The Brazilian suffered the embarrassment of being lapped by Alonso and Williams' race winner Pastor Maldonado, coming in 15th to leave him with just two points from the opening five rounds.

Ferrari's team principal Stefano Domenicali publicly backed the under-performing 31-year-old in March, but Massa has now been told better results will be expected when the championship resumes in Monaco on May 27.

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"Felipe was very unlucky, both in the race and in qualifying," read a statement on Ferrari's official website.

"But everyone, he more than anyone, is expecting a change of gear starting right away with the Monaco Grand Prix, his second home race, given that he lives just a few hundred meters from what, as from next Sunday, will be transformed into the paddock for the sixth round of the 2012 championship. "

Massa's most successful year in the elite division of motorsport was in 2008, when he was denied a first world championship crown by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton on the final corner of the final race.

But the former Sauber driver has struggled to reach those heights since, partly due to a freak accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix which left him with a fractured skull. His form has also spiraled since being told to let Alonso pass him while leading a race in Germany in 2010.

The last time the first five races were won by five different drivers was in 1983, and Domenicali believes Ferrari can be true contenders despite a lack of early-season pace.

"It takes very little to change the hierarchy among the teams and this rule is even more true when the differences are just a few tenths or even hundredths," he said.

"This year, the winner will be whoever manages to bring the best technical updates to the track in the shortest time possible: staying still for just a handful of races could mean finishing out of the points, given that so many teams have proved capable of fighting for the top places.

"We achieved our goal of making a step forward in Spain, but we must continue down this path, especially as the gap to the time that gave Hamilton his pole position is still too big."

Meanwhile, F1 chiefs are still investigating the fire that cast a shadow over Williams' first grand prix victory since 2004 and the first race victory by a Venezuelan driver.

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The blaze in the British team's garage left seven people in hospital, but a statement released by Williams on Monday confirmed that all but one of those injured have now been released.

"One member of the team remains in hospital in Spain having suffered burns in the incident," read the statement. "He is stable and will return to the UK within the next 48 hours to receive further medical care.

"His family are in constant communication and he is in good spirits. Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing in collaboration with the FIA and local authorities.

"The team would like to thank everyone for their good wishes and support over the past 24 hours."

Team principal Frank Williams thanked the other teams for their help and support following the incident.

"While the incident was unexpected and definitely most undesirable, it has demonstrated the genuine cohesiveness, camaraderie and spirit of co-operation that exists within the Formula One paddock," he said.

"The astonishing response from the teams and other paddock personnel was immediate, unconditional and overwhelming."

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