On the eve of the launch of its 2003 car, Ferrari has announced that Brazilian tearaway Felipe Massa will replace countryman Luciano Burti as the Scuderia’s test driver.

On the eve of the launch of its 2003 car, Ferrari has announced that Brazilian tearaway Felipe Massa will replace countryman Luciano Burti as the Scuderia’s test driver.

The 21-year-old former Sauber driver has long been expected to become a test/reserve driver with the Maranello-based team. And after Ralph Firman was confirmed as Jordan Ford’s driver for the 2003 season this week, to become a reserve driver for Ferrari became his most viable opportunity.

Massa has long been linked to Ferrari, and made his debut using Petronas-badged Ferrari engines for Sauber last year. The driver was tipped to land a testing role with Ferrari as long ago as last November when he was replaced by Heinz-Harald Frentzen, but rumours much earlier in the season had indicated that Massa was being groomed as a potential future star for the Italian marque.

The Brazilian, who gained a reputation of being reckless in his first season, will work alongside Luca Badoer in Ferrari's test team. Massa was penalised 10 places on the starting grid for the US Grand Prix last year for crashing into Pedro de la Rosa at Monza (he was replaced at Sauber by Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Indianapolis), but with his race experience he could be used as a reserve driver should either Michael Schumacher or Rubens Barrichello be forced to miss a grand prix.

Burti, meanwhile, was keen to get back into racing for the 2003 season. “I am grateful to Ferrari for the opportunity in 2002. It was a fantastic experience, and it gave me the condition to improve my technic, knowledge and speed”, he said on his website.

“I had a deal with Ferrari for the 2003 season, but I decided to return to racing. Due to my good relationship with the team, they agreed to release me, and we will keep a close link for future opportunities with Ferrari and Maserati.

“I realised that I am ready to compete, and my aim for 2003 is to race in a competitive series, where I can win races and championships, which is my main motivation in motor racing,” he added.