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Sergio Perez v Felipe Massa: Will Ferrari Choose?

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Two races down and the F1 World Championship is taking a three-week break before reconvening in Shanghai (alert: UK petrolheads can ease any withdrawal symptoms at Brands Hatch and the opening rounds of the British Touring Car Championship this weekend, also on ITV4), so what stood out from Melbourne and Sepang?

Well, there's one guy powered by Ferrari who's made everyone sit up and take notice with two drives - one good and one stunning - not with the famous scarlet team but with an under-funded, independent outfit that is more regularly seen mixing it with the midfield also-rans.

Sergio Perez gave everyone at Sauber a huge fillip and everyone else a huge surprise in Malaysia by coming within an ace of an unlikely victory after playing his hand perfectly in the changing Sepang conditions; and unlike Pastor Maldonado in Australia he didn't blow it at the final corner. Instead he scored a superb second, giving the team its best F1 result in 19 years of trying.

Already there is talk of Perez - a Ferrari Driver Academy recruit - being called up to replace Felipe Massa, who has struggled to come to grips with what is essentially a pretty ropey Ferrari by anyone's standards. But, that seems far too drastic a measure - and a knee-jerk reaction - for Ferrari to take so soon into the season. The team knows there is much work to be done to improve the F2012 and Massa's performances may not entirely be down to his ineptitude in comparison to Fernando Alonso's stellar drives so far. Essentially, Alonso has made a number of people back at the factory look good - more so than they deserve - while Massa has perhaps shown the real performance levels of the Ferrari.

Looking further ahead and we can see the next test sessions are scheduled for early May with Ferrari expected at Mugello while others travel to Spain. Could we see Perez out on the Mugello track? By then, four grands prix will have been raced, giving the Scuderia bigwigs a better understanding of the car's - and also Massa's - potential this year. So far, Perez has qualified and finished ahead of Massa in both races, so it's pretty obvious what the Brazilian needs to do in the interim.

Perez is only in his second year in F1, so staying with Sauber and turning in more of the same for 2012 may well be in his best interests while waiting in the wings for the phone call from Luca di Montezemolo. Privately Ferrari will realise this year's car is not a constructors' championship winner, so why not let Alonso see what he can do in the drivers' championship and hope Massa can chip in with a few points finishes.

On the other hand, Ferrari's relationship with Sauber as engine provider is a close one and as we have seen in the past, the Italian team is more than happy to play hardball and to hell with what others might think - remember Hockenhein 2010 and Austria 2002; both occasions where a media and public storm erupted because of team orders but which Ferrari just toughed out. Ferrari haven't won 31 championships for nothing and sentiment over Massa won't be allowed to stand in the way. It's just a question of how soon it is before the eject button is pressed.