Amid suggestions that now might be the time for it to throw its weight behind Felipe Massa in pursuit of the F1 world championship, Ferrari has issued a statement insisting that it will continue to support Kimi Raikkonen's quest to land a second successive title.

While the Finn's recent results don't necessarily show it, his performances have been slammed as lacklustre, especially since the chance of challenging Lewis Hamilton was denied him by poor Ferrari strategy at Silverstone, and retirement in the European Grand Prix last weekend prompted Ferrari's supporters and critics to unite in calls to ditch his personal ambitions in favour of backing Massa against the Hamilton/McLaren threat.

The Briton continues to lead the world championship standings despite having finished second to Massa in Valencia, with Raikkonen now having faded to third, some 13 points adrift. More worryingly for the Scuderia, perhaps, is the fact that the Finn was unable to bolster his tally in Spain, after the team suffered its second engine failure in as many races. A similar problem ended Massa's seemingly easy run to victory in Hungary before the summer break, allowing Hamilton to increase his lead over the pack by a point, and Raikkonen's exit in Valencia saw the same scenario as Massa moved into second overall.

With the Ferrari pair failing to mount a consistent threat to Hamilton, the Briton now leads Massa by six points with a similar number of races remaining before the season ends in Brazil, prompting those calls for Maranello to make a decision in favour of supporting the better-placed of its two drivers. The official line, however, is that the team has no intention of forcing either Raikkonen or Massa to abandon their title dreams just yet.

"Of course, it's easy when things are going well," team principal Stefano Domenicali insisted, "Everyone close to you puts their arms on your shoulders to say you are number one, number one, number one, But then, suddenly, when you have a difficult situation, then they say 'ha ha, this is already finished'.

"That's not the case with Kimi. He's the world champion, we are a team and, of course, we will support everyone in the team and, above all, of course, Kimi, because we trust him 100 per cent.

"It's in the difficult moments that the team has to stay together. We don't have any doubt at all about Kimi's performance and I'm pretty sure he will come back between here and the end in Brazil."

If Domenicali is seeking any support for his argument, he only has to look at the 2007 season, where Raikkonen was seemingly out of the title race - and, if sceptics were to be believed, out of a Ferrari drive - after a run of poor early results with the Scuderia. Although his revival started earlier than with six races remaining, he stormed back into contention, took full advantage of the McLaren team's implosion, and snatched the crown by a single points from Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at Interlagos.

Should such a comeback not be apparent in the next couple of races, however, the team will come under increased pressure to back Massa's campaign, and there are those who suggest that that decision, when it is taken, could be the catalyst to Raikkonen deciding whether or not to continue in F1 next season.

Much has been speculated about whether the Finn is considering retirement at the end of the year and, while he publicly denies that he is even thinking about it, the possibility remains a strong one, which might suggest why Fernando Alonso has not been forthcoming about his own future. The Spaniard has been linked with several teams for 2009, not least Ferrari and Honda, but continues to claim that it is too early to consider his plans for next season. Should Raikkonen quit, however, Maranello is seen as the double champion's most likely destination.

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