He may still be recovering from the head and eye injuries he sustained in an accident in Hungary back in July, but Felipe Massa will be capable of seeing off the challenge of double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso when the Spaniard arrives at Ferrari in 2010 – that is the view of the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, who revealed that he similarly hopes the driver Alonso is replacing at Maranello, Kimi Raikkonen, returns to his old self again next year.
Alonso has signed a three-year deal with the Scuderia
[see separate story – click here
], and will consequently leave Renault – with whom he has competed for six of his eight seasons in the top flight to-date – at the end of the current campaign to begin his future in scarlet.
Some contend that the move will pave the way for a return to McLaren-Mercedes for Raikkonen – and Ecclestone suggests that could be just the impetus the Finn needs to rediscover the kind of form that took him to the 2007 world championship crown but has since seemingly deserted him.
“No way [will Alonso be the number one at Ferrari],” Ecclestone told reporters at Suzuka ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, alluding to the Oviedo native's difficult tenure at McLaren in 2007 and perceived predilection for number one status within a team. “He may try, but I don't think he'll be successful. If he (Massa) handled Kimi, he should be able to handle Fernando – they're the same type of driver really, aren't they? I think he'll be alright.
“I think we will see Kimi in a good car; it would be good to see him in a McLaren, wouldn't it? It's a different culture. He's probably better off with a more English-type team. I hope the old Kimi turns up next season.”
The Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive also professed himself keen to see record-breaking multiple World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb make his F1 debut for Scuderia Toro Rosso in the inaugural, season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the beginning of next month – and was full of praise for the improvements made to the newly-refurbished Suzuka circuit in time for this year's race.
“Now you can understand why I complain about Silverstone,” asserted the 78-year-old billionaire. “They (Suzuka) have got on with it. That was one of the conditions that we came back here.
“Obviously we would like to see [Loeb]. He is a well-known guy. It is nice to have a change of people, and he is a nice guy as well.”