Ferrari to confirm Alonso?

UPDATE #15 (GMM) Luca di Montezemolo nearly dropped a bombshell on Friday when he announced that Fernando Alonso will join Ferrari — "sooner or later".

The Ferrari president, who admitted he liked the Spaniard and would describe him as a "great driver", was speaking to Spanish reporters in the Monza paddock.

So too was Emilio Botin, the boss of Ferrari's new and major Spanish sponsor, the bank Santander.

"Of course I would like to sign Alonso," Botin is quoted as saying by Diario AS newspaper, "but I can only appoint directors of the bank. Ferrari are the ones who make the decisions about drivers."

However, like Montezemolo, the hints about Alonso's future came thick and fast. When told that masses of Spanish fans are dreaming of seeing Alonso in a red car, Botin answered: "I have always said that people should be optimistic."

Also at the centre of the speculation is Kimi Raikkonen, who according to widespread paddock gossip would be the driver to make room at Ferrari for Alonso.

Asked on Friday by La Stampa newspaper if he wants to finish his career with Ferrari, the Finn answered: "I did think so, but sometimes in F1 things change overnight, so who knows?"

Raikkonen repeated his regular line about his 2010 contract, and told the interviewer: "Rumors and leaks are your problem, not mine.

"This is my team. Nothing has changed and nobody has said anything to me, because there is nothing to say."

09/10/09 (GMM) The confirmation later on Thursday of the Spanish bank Santander's arrival at Ferrari as a sponsor does not mean Fernando Alonso is also heading to the Italian team.

That was the message intimated on Wednesday by Luca di Montezemolo, after the Ferrari president appeared at the Monza circuit for a meeting with his fellow FOTA chiefs.

The Italian will reappear at the circuit on Thursday for the Santander press conference "but that doesn't mean anything in terms of choices for the near future", he insisted.

"I want to say it again, that the drivers are chosen by Ferrari and not by the sponsors," Montezemolo added.

Fernando Alonso

The rumors linking Ferrari, Santander and Alonso also involve Kimi Raikkonen, with it suggested that the marriage of the former trio means the team's Finnish driver must depart.

Referring to Raikkonen's run of top form, team boss Stefano Domenicali said in the Italian media: "As I said in Spa, I hope the rumors continue because if it means Kimi reacts like this, it is good for us."

Raikkonen, 29, is under contract for 2010, but Domenicali insisted that clear declarations about Ferrari's plans for next year will only be announced "at the opportune moment".

09/09/09 Already reported here on below, Autosport reports that Ferrari will announce Spanish sponsor Santander Thursday ahead of the Italian GP. Speculation is that this means Spaniard Fernando Alonso is also going to Ferrari.

08/26/09 (GMM) The only missing element to the Santander/Ferrari sponsorship deal beginning in 2010 is an official press announcement.

It is an open secret in the F1 paddock that the Spanish bank will switch from McLaren at the end of the year, presumably to team up with Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.

Asked about the rumors, Santander's executive vice president for communications and corporate marketing Juan Manuel Cendoya told AS newspaper: "The world's best bank, the world's best team, the world's best driver — without doubt that is a dream combination for any sponsor."

However, it has been whispered in recent days that McLaren is trying everything to retain Santander; including – according to El Mundo newspaper – by asking the bank if wooing Alonso back to the Mercedes powered team would change its mind.

The German newspaper TZ said contact has been made by officials of the Woking based team to Alonso's manager Luis Garcia Abad.

"At no time have I spoken with Fernando Alonso about contracts," Mercedes' Norbert Haug said in a teleconference for German media this week.

"We talk from time to time and I send him a SMS if he drives a good race. But never (do we talk) about contracts," he insisted.

08/25/09 As rumors surrounding a number of teams continue to circulate in the Formula One paddock, gossip regarding Fernando Alonso's move to Ferrari next year continues to be the epicenter of the silly season; however, a source close to both parties has told GPWeek that a Monza announcement has now been delayed as Felipe Massa continues to recuperate. With Alonso highly tipped to become team-mate to Massa at the Maranello team next year, the Brazilian's injuries sustained from his Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying crash have thrown a number of variables into the mix at the Scuderia although the Paulista is expected to make a full recovery ahead of next season.

With the Italian Grand Prix weekend (12-13 September) the traditional scene for Ferrari announcements, GPWeek has now been told by an anonymous source that any news bulletins will be placed on hold. "The announcement was due to be made in Monza as had been expected for some time," the quote reads. "However with Massa's return under question the team has been forced to delay.

"Fernando will be a Ferrari driver in 2010. The deal has been signed. The only question is his team-mare and out of respect for Felipe, Ferrari will not make the announcement until they are sure whether he will be able to return."

08/25/09 (GMM) Comments made by Felipe Massa's father will only intensify speculation that the Brazilian will be paired with Fernando Alonso at Ferrari next year.

Authoritative media sources are claiming that Spaniard Alonso, reportedly to replace Kimi Raikkonen, has now inked a proper contract with the Italian marque to begin in 2010.

Massa's father Luiz Antonio has told Spanish radio Onda Cero that Alonso is a "great driver" who would make a good teammate for his son, who is currently recovering from head injuries sustained at the Hungarian grand prix last month.

"Felipe has already had a great driver as a teammate in Michael Schumacher. With Kimi he has always had a good relationship.

"He is a tough teammate who motivated him and for sure if Fernando is with Felipe next year it will be a very good rivalry as much for all the fans as for Felipe and Fernando," Massa Snr added.

08/22/09 Kimi Raikkonen insists he's not worried about Whitmarsh's claims as he has a Ferrari contract for 2010. "It's always the same question and the same answer," he told Autosport. "I have a contract and that's the situation right now. That's all that I know."

08/21/09 (GMM) A spokesman for Ferrari on Friday denied claims Fernando Alonso's rumored move to the Italian team for 2010 is now a dead-certainty.

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh caused a stir at the Valencia circuit when he said Alonso's "move to Ferrari will have a ripple effect on other teams" in terms of their driver choices.

Maranello based Ferrari however have consistently claimed that both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen are under firm contract for 2010, even though the latter Finn is rumored to be eyeing either a move to rallying or another team.

It is rumored the 29-year-old would be paid off in full by Ferrari in order to make room for Alonso.

But in reaction to Whitmarsh's comments, the Ferrari spokesman told the BBC: "He can say what he wants, there is no Fernando/Ferrari move.

"Things can happen and not happen. But you cannot talk about any Fernando/Ferrari move. We have two drivers with a contract until the end of 2010. We are not under pressure to change anything," he added.

08/21/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Martin Whitmarsh on Friday morning admitted that it is common paddock knowledge that Fernando Alonso is moving to Ferrari next season.

The McLaren boss, who worked with the Spanish driver during his ill-fated single season with the British team in 2007, told BBC Five Live at Valencia that the move is set to shake up the 2010 driver market.

Whitmarsh indicated earlier that McLaren's next driver line-up has not yet been decided, but Heikki Kovalainen responded by insisting he is "not concerned about rumors and speculation".

"We all know that Fernando Alonso's move to Ferrari will have a ripple effect on other teams," said Whitmarsh. "It opens up the driver market.

"We are not in talks with any other drivers at the moment, but are obliged to have the most competitive cars and drivers that we can," the Briton added.

08/11/09 (GMM) Ferrari is set to announce its multiple-year sponsorship agreement with the Spanish bank Santander next month, according to the sports newspaper Marca.

The deal, to kick off in 2010, has been one of F1's worst-kept secrets for more than a year, but will finally be confirmed officially ahead of the Italian grand prix at Monza.

It had been rumored that Fernando Alonso might also be unveiled as a 2010 Ferrari driver at Monza, but Marca believes that this announcement may now be scheduled for the end of the season at the earliest.

Banco Santander, whose chief Emilio Botin openly admires countryman Alonso, currently advertises primarily on the rearward-facing elements of McLaren's rear wing.

Alonso, 27, is backed by the Santander subsidiary Universia.

08/07/09 One of the enduring rumors of recent months has been that Fernando Alonso will move to Ferrari next year with sponsorship coming from the Spanish financial services company Grupo Santander. It is expected that there will be an official announcement of the deal at the Italian Grand Prix in September. The intention was for Alonso to come in to Ferrari and partner Felipe Massa and this may still happen, depending on the fitness of the Brazilian. Kimi Raikkonen seems to be out of the picture. The fact that Ferrari is willing to allow one of its major assets to take part in a World Rally Championship event – from which he exited rolling twice into a forest – suggests that the team is not really bothered about him in the future. One cannot imagine any major F1 team allowing such a thing these days given the investment that has to be made in the drivers.

Alonso wants only to race a truly competitive car. After two World Championships at Renault he moved to McLaren hoping for great things. Santander joined him. The deal was for three years with an option to extend two more. This was a good move at the time as the Spanish bank could use Lewis Hamilton to promote the rebranding of its British subsidiaries while Alonso could be used for promotions in the Spanish-speaking world. The troubles at McLaren in 2007 led to the early departure of Fernando and caused Santander to have a rethink about the sponsorship. It was agreed that the bank would stay for the three years as agreed, but would not take up its option for 2010 and 2011.

Alonso wanted to go to Ferrari in 2008 but the team had no space for him so he settled for Renault, unconvinced by the other options available. It is believed that Alonso signed a pre-contract with Ferrari at the end of last year to join the team in 2010. Ferrari then turned around and used this to bid for the Santander money. Ferrari's problem was that Santander wanted primary sponsorship but could not have it because Ferrari had previously agreed a deal with tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI), the owners of the Marlboro brand, to continue until the end of 2011. Originally PMI had wanted to stop funding Ferrari at the end of this year, despite a deal that ran to 2011. PMI has long owned the entire sponsorship space on the Ferrari and sells it on to other sponsors, at a premium of around 30% on top of the price it paid. In order to keep the Marlboro money Ferrari promised to significantly increase the money that PMI made from the sponsorship. Santander was keen to join the party with Alonso and so a deal was agreed that will begin in 2010 and will provide Santander with significant badging on the car and an option to become title sponsor in 2011, PMI with a much better return on its investment, Alonso with the hope that he might be able to win another World Championship while Ferrari has the budget it needs – a win-win situation for all concerned.

07/24/09 (GMM) Fernando Alonso has issued the strongest hint yet that he will be a Ferrari driver in 2010.

In an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera on Friday, the Renault driver refused to rule out joining the famous Maranello based team for 2010.

Asked if he could rule out the possibility of a Ferrari drive next year by a factor of 100 per cent, the 27-year-old answered: "No."

Pressed further for when he will be able to give more away about the rampant Ferrari rumors, Alonso added: "Who knows? Maybe in three or four months, perhaps in a year."

07/14/09 (GMM) Fernando Alonso's manager has admitted the "possibility" that the 27-year-old Spaniard will one day drive for Ferrari.

Alonso, currently a Renault driver, denied the latest reports of a 2010 switch last weekend at the Nurburgring, but does not hide his affection for the Italian team nor its attractiveness as an employer.

"Fernando would love to drive for Ferrari one day," said his manager Luis Garcia Abad, "that is not a secret.

"But it is a little early to talk about that possibility," he is quoted as saying by the French newspaper Liberation.

07/09/09 (GMM) Fernando Alonso on Thursday denied the latest round of suggestions that he is set to switch to Ferrari.

Authoritative arms of the Spanish and Italian press now agree that the 27-year-old could switch to the Maranello based team in 2010, with an official announcement in September or November.

"As usual, all of these are only rumors," the Spaniard told reporters at the Nurburgring ahead of this weekend's German grand prix. "They have been happening in the last four or five years all the time."

Interestingly, while the Alonso-Ferrari linkup is regarded as the worst-kept secret in F1, the Renault driver answered "no" twice when asked if has either inked a contract or held any talks with the famous Italian team.

07/01/09 (GMM) Ferrari has dismissed as "speculation" the latest reports that Monza could be the scene of an announcement about Fernando Alonso's 2010 seat.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS reported this week that September 11, the Friday of the Italian grand prix, may have been set aside to confirm the Spaniard alongside one of the Maranello team's existing drivers.

The report coincided with confirmation that, for the first time, the Italian marque's end-of-season 'World Finals' event in mid November is scheduled to take place in Spain.

But spokesman Luca Colajanni said: "We are not going to waste our time commenting on speculation.

"Everyone should remember that Massa and Raikkonen have contracts which include 2010," he told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

06/30/09 (GMM) September 11 2009 could be the date on which Fernando Alonso is revealed as a Ferrari driver for the next five formula one seasons.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS claims that the sport's best-known secret may already be scheduled for official confirmation on the Friday of the Italian grand prix at Monza.

The report believes Ferrari has not decided which of the team's contracted 2010 drivers, Felipe Massa or Kimi Raikkonen, will be ushered aside to make room for the former double world champion, who currently races for Renault.

AS said Ferrari intends to hold its major end-of-season event at Valencia in November, not only to welcome Alonso, 27, to the team, but also its new 2010 Spanish sponsor Santander.

The report said Alonso could be the "surprise guest" at the event, but would have to wear casual clothes because of his Renault contract through December 31.

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