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Ferrari 'ready to make driver decision'
8 September 2013
With Daniel Ricciardo confirmed as Mark Webber's successor at Red Bull, the centre of attention in the driver market is Kimi Raikkonen and the question or will he or won't he return to the team that he parted ways with at the end of 2009.
Ferrari has been tight lipped about the question of Raikkonen's return to the team as a possible replacement for Felipe Massa in the second car alongside Fernando Alonso, but reports from Monza suggest that the decision - and an announcement - could come at any time after this weekend's event.
"We will think of this immediately after Monza because we wanted to arrive at this weekend without any strange pressure," declared Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo on Saturday. "We will take any decision in the next days."
But di Montezemolo said that the team hadn't made a selection yet.
"We haven't signed any contract with anybody, we will talk with Massa and then we have our opinion and then we will decide," he insisted. "We haven't taken any kind of a decision yet."
Di Montezemolo certainly wasn't ruling Raikkonen out, pointing out that their last collaboration had delivered a world championship to Maranello, the team's first after its Michael Schumacher/Ross Brawn purple period.
"Kimi is a good driver. For us it was a big satisfaction to win with him the first championship with the new team without Michael, without Ross," he said. "I think there are also the possibilities of some other drivers but there is also the possibility as last year that we decide to continue with Felipe.
"In every decision, you have to be very careful because you have plus and minus," he added. "Now is time to take a decision. Before it was too early. And we will take it."
This weekend has seen renewed hints of a rift between the team and their star driver Fernando Alonso, with a comment over the team radio in which the Spaniard appeared to call his team 'idiots' attracting a lot of media attention overnight in Monza.
Di Montezemolo - who recently reprimanded Alonso in public for his criticism of the team at the Hungarian Grand Prix - moved to play down the incident on Saturday evening. "Everything is okay," he insisted, quipping: "The truth is that he was trying to go to Marussia!
"Fernando is a great driver, who has done a lot for Ferrari and he is right to be unhappy at not securing better results," continued di Montezemolo. "From that point of view, I am more unhappy than he is."
However, he added: "But in a great family, you win and lose together and now I'm expecting the team to do their very best."
"The radio messages have been misunderstood, as is often the case when you don't experience something first hand," said Alonso himself. "The word 'genius' refers to the fact that we could have got out before Rosberg had gone by on his quick lap, but this should not raise any doubts about the impeccable job from the whole team.
"He [Massa] was perfect," added Alonso. "He was a little bit in front of me and helping me along the straights. It was perfect and this extra tenth or something was thanks to him."
Despite those reassurances, the ever-zealous Italian press will likely be vigilant to spot further signs of a growing distance between Alonso and Ferrari, which may in turn influence the team's decision on who to sign as their second drive for 2014 - whether to go for an equal talent such as Kimi Raikkonen, stick with a known quantity such as Felipe Massa - or maybe try something even more surprising such as Nico Hulkenberg, who made a vivid impression on the Monza paddock by storming to third place on the grid for Sunday's race in the Sauber.
The silly season continues, and will do for some weeks yet.
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