Rossi signs with Ferrari

UPDATE Valentino Rossi will be Ferrari's test or race driver in 2007, another Italian newspaper has reported with confidence. 'Corriere della Sera' also quoted Ferrari boss Jean Todt, who didn't deny the rising speculation surrounding the 26-year-old MotoGP champion and sensation.

''I can say that the Ferrari technicians at the (Fiorano) tests were impressed (with Rossi's driving),'' the Frenchman said. ''He obviously has real natural talent.''

Todt is undoubtedly concerned, though, by all the Rossi-to-switch media attention the rider is attracting. ''I don't think he should be put under so much pressure,'' the Maranello based boss added.

The Napoleon-like chief also hit out at widespread media criticism of 2005-spec Ferrari, who – although 1999 to 2004 constructors' champions – have failed to win a single race (Indy aside) this year. ''I don't think our past achievements should be forgotten so hastily,'' Todt insisted.

08/30/05 The Valentino Rossi-to-Ferrari story is more than mere speculation, if you believe the claims of an Italian newspaper. La Repubblica said on Monday that the MotoGP champion was all set to switch to four wheels and race onto the grand prix grid alongside Kimi Raikkonen in the 2007 season.

The newspaper did not give a source but cited a staggering $33 million per year for the flamboyant 26 year old rider, who is already the highest paid sportsman in all of Italy.

He would race a Ferrari for an initial three year period, La Repubblica added. The deal would put into context Felipe Massa's unusual (for Ferrari) one year contract for 2006, speculation linking Michael Schumacher with a Ferrari split, and Rossi's alleged reluctance to ride with Ferrari cigarette sponsor Marlboro's rival – Gauloises – in the MotoGP series. La Repubblica said Marlboro owner Altria had even asked Rossi to sever all ties with Gauloises – owned by Altadis – for the start of next season.

Ferrari boss Jean Todt, meanwhile – an open admirer of Raikkonen – leapt on gossip that a deal with the McLaren driver had also been struck. ''Just because a young driver has a lot of talent,'' the Frenchman said, ''you cannot say he has signed with Ferrari.''

This article in Grandprix.com adds to the Ferrari and Raikkonen part of the rumor – It is worth noting that while there is much talk of premature rumors of Kimi Raikkonen signing at Ferrari, it is exactly the right moment for Ferrari to make a move. In July 1998 Michael Schumacher signed to drive for Ferrari between 2000-2002 and the extension that he signed for the 2003-2004 seasons was agreed in May 2001. Or to put it another way, the team likes to have its deals squared away well in advance and, based on its previous decisions, the suggestion that Raikkonen agreed a deal in May may not seem as silly as it may have sounded a week ago.

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