Rossi clears path to F1 switch?

UPDATE #2 (GMMf1NET) Multiple MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi is on the verge of deciding to switch full time to F1 in 2007.

After the flamboyant Italian tested at the Valencia group test recently, the 'Motorcycle News' publication quoted a friend of Rossi's as saying that the 26-year-old is 'very close' to saying yes to Ferrari.

But just as the seriousness of his F1 foray escalates, Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper said that Rossi's switch very much depends on what Michael Schumacher decides to do.

The press report said Maranello based Ferrari, undoubtedly interested in also signing Kimi Raikkonen, would not 'risk' taking on two entirely new drivers next year, if Schumacher finally retires.

La Gazzetta's article is the latest in a wave of new headlines speculating about Rossi's future, with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone – for one – musing that it might be difficult for the rider to abandon his lucrative status on two wheels.

World champion Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, told the Spanish 'Sociedad Espanola de Radiodifusion' that he doesn't think Rossi is capable of winning in F1.

''He did do quite well (at Valencia),'' said the 24-year-old, ''but we don't know exactly what setting his (Ferrari V10) engine had.''

02/10/06 Valentino Rossi is seriously considering a switch from MotoGP to Formula 1 in 2007 following his impressive test with Ferrari at Spain’s Valencia circuit last week.

Motorcycle News cites a “close personal friend" of Rossi saying the Italian surprised himself with how competitive he was against F1’s established stars – leaving him with a genuine dilemma over where his future lies. The friend claimed Rossi is now “very close" to moving to F1 and that Ferrari has redoubled its efforts to lure him to Maranello.

Rossi’s performance at Valencia suggested he has the potential to emulate Britain’s John Surtees and make a successful transition from two wheels to four. His best lap time at the twisty Spanish circuit of 1m12.3s, set in a Ferrari F2004 with 2004 downforce levels, compares with Michael Schumacher’s benchmark of 1m10.2s in a similar car last year.

However, Rossi was using a restricted V10 engine developing 200bhp less than the car used by Schumacher, thought to account for a time loss of about 1.5s. Taking the different engine specifications into account, Rossi was only around 0.7s slower than the seven-times world champion on his fourth outing in an F1 car.

“For the first time I didn’t feel like a visitor, I felt like a member of the team," Rossi is quoted as saying by MCN.

“I learned a lot in the three days and we have to keep working in this way."

12/29/05 Valentino Rossi's Yamaha team in MotoGP has split with long time cigarette sponsor Gauloises.

Some observers think the Italian rider just doesn't want to power tobacco logos around the motorcycle tracks of the world. But he has proved happy to test the heavily Marlboro-sponsored Ferrari formula one car.

So, other observers are making the link between Altadis' blue-clad cigarette brand and that of rival Altria's Marlboro.

It is likely that 26-year-old Rossi will spearhead his Yamaha duties next year with a comprehensive Ferrari test program — and therein, perhaps, laid the troublesome tobacco clash.

It was even reported in August this year that Altria had asked Rossi to sever his ties with Altadis-owned Gauloises.

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