In an unexpected twist, Mark Webber has become the latest name to be linked with Ferrari for F1 2011, in a development that makes Felipe Massa's future at the Prancing Horse look ever-more tenuous.
It has been whispered inside the F1 paddock for some time that Renault star Robert Kubica could be Maranello-bound next year, to partner his close friend and fellow poker player Fernando Alonso – but with the Enstone-based outfit's new team owner Gérard Lopez revealing his plan to convince the Pole to stay on-board rather than jump ship [see separate story – click here
], Webber's name has entered the frame.
The Red Bull Racing star belatedly kick-started his F1 2010 title challenge into gear with a dominant victory in last Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix, and it had previously been thought that were the Australian not to be offered a renewed deal by his Milton Keynes-based employer beyond the end of the current campaign, he could elect to hang up his helmet – but now it seems the 33-year-old might just have an alternative front-running option.
He too gets on well with Alonso, seemingly in contrast to Massa, who was shoved unceremoniously aside by his ruthless Spanish team-mate upon entering the Shanghai pit-lane in last month's Chinese Grand Prix, and who following a bright start in Bahrain, has subsequently struggled to keep pace with the double F1 World Champion thus far in 2010.
Comprehensively out-qualified and out-raced by Alonso in each of the last two outings, Massa looks to have slipped quietly into the 22-time grand prix-winner's shadow – and has also slipped from first to equal-sixth in the points standings. The Brazilian has confessed that his Ferrari F10 'does not work as it is for me and we need to understand why and find a solution', after he likened his Barcelona performance to 'more like rally driving'.
Both Massa and Webber's contracts are due to expire at the end of 2010, whilst Kubica is understood to have signed an 'option' with Ferrari that must be taken up by 15 July [see separate story – click here
]. There has been speculation in the past that Webber could be eased out of RBR to make way for World Rally Championship-convert and 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, should the Finn wish to return.