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Massa to replace Barrichello at Ferrari

Simon Evans | August 02, 2005 22:34 IST

Brazilian Felipe Massa will replace compatriot Rubens Barrichello at world champions Ferrari next season, the Formula One team said on Tuesday.

Barrichello, whose contract runs until the end of 2006, has raced alongside seven-times drivers' champion Michael Schumacher since 2000 and won nine Grands Prix.

"Rubens Barrichello will leave the Scuderia at the end of the 2005 season, the conclusion of a fruitful and fortunate collaboration that began in 2000 and which so far has brought the achievement of five constructors' world championship titles," Ferrari said in a statement.

The world champions gave no reason for Barrichello's departure a year ahead of schedule although there were clear signs he had become unhappy with his position as second driver behind Schumacher as Ferrari struggled this season.

He took exception to the German forcing his way past for sixth place at Monaco, and also at Indianapolis as the pair battled it out for victory in a six-car race.

The 33-year-old is expected to replace Japan's Takuma Sato at BAR, who hope to pair him with Jenson Button if they win the battle with Williams for the Briton's services.

Massa, who is managed by the son of Ferrari team boss Jean Todt, first grabbed the attention of the Italian team when he set faster times than Schumacher in testing at Mugello in 2001.

"I feel ready for this new challenge, which is the best opportunity of my career," the 24-year-old said.

"I am aware of the responsibility it places on me and I cannot wait to be part of a team like Ferrari, alongside the best driver in the world, Michael Schumacher."

Massa made his Formula One debut for Sauber in the 2002 season and spent the next year testing for Ferrari before returning to the Swiss-based team in 2004.

In three years with Sauber, he has scored 24 points.

Ferrari said they had exercised an option on Massa that had been in place since 2001 and that "an agreement has been reached on the technical and competitive collaboration with Felipe for the 2006 season".

"I am very happy and proud to be racing with Ferrari in 2006," Massa said on his website.

"Maranello has believed in me since 2001, when I had yet to make my Formula One debut.

"Now, I am in my third season as a Sauber driver and I can also count on a year's experience as a Ferrari test driver, an experience which helped me to grow a great deal."

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