Things are moving quickly now in the one key move in the driver market which will unlock the others. Today Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali said “In the last couple of days the situation has changed, so we will keep you updated as soon as we can say something. At the moment nothing to add on that.”
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was in Madrid on Thursday and took part in a question and answer session with the readers of Marca, the leading daily sports paper. He was collecting one of their awards. He allowed himself to get a bit carried away, as he does sometimes, and said the following,
” I’m happy with the five year deal with Bank Santander. I’m happy to have a Spanish sponsor and I’m pleased with my team with Alonso.”
He was toying with them because he then said, “Next year we will have Massa, Raikkonen and a Spanish sponsor.”
It’s almost as if he is enjoying the moment, the speculation and is feeding it. However he did say get serious and lay out the plan, “Up to now the priority was to confirm Massa was okay in himself. Then we needed to get some certainty he would be okay as a driver. We’ve got that and Felipe will be with us. In these last few days we have cleared up a few things and when Domenicali returns from Singapore we can decide some important things. All the great driver have passed through Ferrari apart from Clark, Stewart and Senna. I consider Alonso a great driver.”
So it seems we are possibly a week or so away from knowing whether the Alonso Ferrari move is on or not, nine months after it was first mooted in Gazzetta dello Sport.
What has changed? Perhaps on his visit to Spain, Montezemolo got some kind of assurance from Santander that they would be willing to put up the extra funds needed to make the early transfer of Alonso to Ferrari in place of Raikkonen.
Perhaps Alonso is more keen to distance himself from Renault and the cheating scandal, just as Michael Schumacher was in 1995, with the same team when it was Benetton. The parallels between Alonso’s career and Schumacher’s are amazing, both had early opportunities with Flavio Briatore’s team, both won back to back titles then had a fallow period. Maybe the pattern continues with the move to Ferrari.
Raikkonen said on Thursday, “I believe that they want to speak to me about this. But it hasn’t happened yet.” Indeed, Italian colleagues tell me that Raikkonen has been seeking a meeting with Montezemolo but has yet to get a date from him. His name continues to be linked with McLaren but the team denied that there was a pre-contract in place.
As for Massa, Domenicali gave an update on his condition today, “Felipe makes steady progress: he started a programme of physical exercise and preparations to drive. The next step will be the simulator and then he can drive a kart. When he can get back behind the wheel of a Formula 1 single-seater, we’ll decide when the next steps have been completed.”
A final note on Montezemolo, he was asked whether he felt he was ‘Mosley’s next victim’, to which he replied, ” In life you must have a clear conscience and fear nothing.”
This weekend looks like being a tough one for Ferrari, with many of their rivals having brought upgrades. Ferrari stopped development of the car over a month ago to focus on 2010, “Clearly, when evaluating today’s free practice times, one has to consider the various unknown factors, but it is equally clear that our situation looks pretty difficult,” said Domenicali.