Ferrari has announced that double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso is to join the team alongside the recovering Felipe Massa from 2010 onwards, in-place of Kimi Raikkonen and on a three-year deal reputed to be worth as much as €25 million per season.
The worst-kept secret in the F1 paddock was unveiled ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka – a race in which Alonso has twice triumphed, albeit on one of those occasions at Fuji – and BBC Sport
reports that the deal was actually signed all the way back in July, 2008, according to sources close to the Maranello-based outfit. There are understood to be options to extend the agreement, which will see the Spaniard earn between €19 million and €25 million a year.
Whilst praising Alonso as an 'amazing talent', Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali made a point of thanking Raikkonen – who most believe to be McLaren-bound in 2010 in-place of countryman Heikki Kovalainen, returning to the team with whom he competed in the top flight for five years from 2002 to 2006 – for his efforts and performances over the past three seasons, at the end of the first of which the Finn defeated Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to lift the drivers' crown.
“We are very proud to welcome to our team another winning driver, who has demonstrated his amazing talent by winning two world championships in his career to-date,” stated the Italian. “Of course, we wish to thank Kimi for everything he has done during his time with Ferrari. In his first year with us he managed to win the drivers' title, thus making his contribution to Ferrari's history, and he played a vital role in our taking of the constructors' title in 2007 and 2008.
“Even during a difficult season like this one, he has demonstrated his great talent, with several good results, including a great win at Spa. We are sure that we can share more good times together in the final three races of this season.”
Raikkonen had to be bought out of his pre-existing 2010 contract with the Scuderia
in order to negotiate an early release to accommodate his replacement, and the 18-time grand prix-winner confessed that it would be an emotional departure.
“I am very sad to be leaving a team with which I have spent three fantastic years,” the 29-year-old commented. “With common consent, we have agreed to terminate the contract binding me to Ferrari to the end of 2010, one year ahead of schedule. I have always felt at home with everyone here, and I will have many happy memories of my time with the team.”
The Alonso/Ferrari deal has been revealed earlier than planned due to the mounting paddock speculation on the matter. Renault managing director Jean-François Caubet had already hinted in Singapore that the Enstone-based concern had lost the 21-time grand-prix winner, admitting that 'Fernando will miss Renault and Renault will miss Fernando' as he alluded to the fact that the Oviedo native has spent all-but two of his eight seasons in F1 with the French manufacturer, becoming both the sport's youngest-ever race-winner and world champion with the Régie
, records he has since surrendered to respectively Sebastian Vettel and former team-mate Hamilton. Both of his drivers' titles were similarly achieved with the team.
The belated confirmation is also likely to unlock the driver market, with current BMW-Sauber incumbent Robert Kubica widely anticipated to fill his fellow poker player's shoes at Renault.