The saga over Fernando Alonso’s move to Ferrari looked on Friday like it was finally being cleared up. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said that Fernando Alonso will join Ferrari one day, but hinted strongly that it will be 2011, rather than 2010. But the signals continue to suggest that this situation is fluid.
Both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen have firm contracts for 2010 and it was always a question of whether a deal would be struck for Raikkonen to leave or more recently, whether Massa would not recover from his injuries.
Of the two Massa is the cheaper one to buy out of his contract, by some margin. But after his accident and the sense of family which exists at Ferrari, it would be tough for him to be the one to make way.
Throughout the summer there have signs that Ferrari was looking to move Alonso in for 2010, but no deal appears to have been done to move aside one of the existing drivers to date. It’s interesting that Ferrari were not in a position to come out and announce over the Monza weekend in clear terms that their drivers would be Raikkonen and Massa for 2010.
Of course with the pair of them having contracts you would say that this is not necessary, but such has been the level of discussion on this, you would think that once the situation becomes 100% clear some sort of confirmation announcement would be made.
This suggests that the situation is fluid and team boss Stefano Domenicali suggested as much on Sunday night.
Judging from Montezemolo’s comments on Friday no pay-off deal has been done yet with Raikkonen. I think that there was one on the table, but Raikkonen wanted paying in full for the season and it was up to Ferrari to decide how to proceed.
However there was no mistaking the desire to get Alonso into a Ferrari car, especially now that Santander has come on board with a very substantial five year sponsorship commitment.
“Sooner or later I’ll make it happen. We’ll see when,” said di Montezemolo in relation to Alonso.
“For next year we have Raikkonen, Massa, Fisichella, Badoer, Gene, and I hope Michael Schumacher, so we have a bench as long as Real Madrid’s.
“We have two great champions with the 2007 champion and the man who was 2008 champion for 15 seconds when he crossed the line. So I think we have two extraordinary drivers.”
“I’ve always liked Alonso, because he is a great driver that I spotted back when he was in Minardi. He won titles, and I’ve always thought that sooner or later, all great drivers come to Ferrari.”
But then on Sunday night Stefano Domenicali said that he didn’t want to talk about whether Raikkonen would be staying with the team, despite the fact that he has a contract, “I think that, as we have said, we don’t want to discuss this now, because I don’t think it is correct.
“As you know, Kimi has a contract with us next year, and this is what we can say now. We are happy with the performance of Kimi because he is playing fantastically, he is driving very, very well, ” said the team boss.
There is no doubt that Raikkonen has been on fantastic form in the last four races, scoring 30 points (more than anyone else) a win and three podiums. And this is in a car which Ferrari stopped developing.
There has been talk of a Massa test before the end of the year. This makes sense as it might well be to assess whether he is still at the same level as before. Brain surgeons I have spoken to say that head injuries like that can often leave the patient with epilepsy and there is much to be discovered about the Felipe Massa who hopes to return from the accident. Let’s all hope he is 100% the same man, as Montezemolo assured everyone he is over the weekend.
So perhaps Massa might be the one to make way and Ferrari would field a line up of Alonso and Raikkonen in 2010. But is Alonso going to have to wait until a Massa winter test? Then again, where would he drive in 2010 if Renault lose the case over the Singapore race fixing allegations?
Alonso was asked by Italian colleagues on Friday night whether he thought the tifosi would support him this weekend because they know he will soon be a Ferrari driver, he replied, “This we cannot say yet 100%. There is still some work to be done on it.”
There is indeed.