Despite admitting after the European Grand Prix that it would consider putting its weight behind one of its drivers in an effort to take the world championship fight to Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has issued mixed messages that appear to suggest the team is not ready to make the move just yet.
Reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen fell 13 points off the lead established by Hamilton after Valencia and, with Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa stuck almost equally between the two protagonists, it has been suggested that now is the time to back the Brazilian, despite there being six races left on the calendar. Raikkonen, meanwhile, insists that his form and fortune will improve - and points out that he was 17 points adrift with two
races remaining in his championship season - and Domenicali appears content to allow the Finn to continue his challenge... for now at least.
"I think it is better to have two strong cars rather than one," he said on the even of qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race Raikkonen has won three times in a row, "For sure, we will have maybe to take a decision as we did last year at a certain moment of the season in order to make sure that [we are not compromising out challenge] but, at the moment, I don't think so. If you look at all the races that we have done, there was no situation where one of our drivers took points off the other, not at all."
That final comment could be put down to Ferrari's occasionally lamentable reliability record - something that Domenicali said that it was trying to correct after two engine failures in as many races - but as much to the lacklustre performances provided by the reigning world champion.
"[Raikkonen's Valencia engine failure] was the same problem [as Massa's in Hungary], it was the same con rod because it was the same batch with the sequence of the serial number," Domenicali revealed, "Hopefully, we have now isolated this problem.
"For sure, it has cost a lot of points on our side. Apart from that, the problem shows how important the quality control process is, not only inside the company, but also with the supplier and the sub-supplier. This is really a key area of joint work and we cannot underestimate the importance of it, so we need to be stronger and stronger in that area."
Raikkonen's dip in form, which began around the British Grand Prix, is seen as a bigger concern by many, particularly if the team continues to back its two-car assault theory. Domenicali, however, insists that the Finn remains determined to fight.
"I think that Kimi's motivation is very high because, for sure, he is the one that doesn't like [the situation] at this moment," he said, "In terms of motivation, I am pretty sure he has a lot inside, and what we are doing as a team is to support him and trying to work very hard with him. I am looking forward to seeing once again what all of us are expecting."
However, Domenicali's comments, made during the second of the weekend's FIA press conferences at Spa-Francorchamps, appear at odds with those attributed to him by Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport
, which suggests that 'team orders' - for want of a better phrase - could be rather closer than either he or Raikkonen are letting on.
"As always, the priority at Ferrari is the interests of the team," Domenicali is quoted as saying, "This means that both of our drivers are aware that, if requested, they will help one or the other in the final stages of the championship.
"If the situation had been reversed [in 2007], then Kimi would have given the same support [to Massa]. At the moment, there is no hierarchy because, mathematically, with 60 points still available, there is not enough space between them. Once that situation changes clearly, then we will act accordingly."