Despite Ferrari having announced that Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen will both remain on-board until the end of the 2010 Formula 1 campaign, speculation persists within the grand prix paddock that Fernando Alonso could yet be seen in scarlet overalls next season.
The former double F1 World Champion – who has yet to announce where he will be driving next year – admitted over the weekend of the Chinese Grand Prix that 'one day [he] would very much like to be with Ferrari' [see separate story – click here
], and there are continued whispers that that day may come significantly sooner than many expect.
Spanish newspaper AS
has now suggested that Alonso and Raikkonen could be the subject of a seat swap in 2009, with the former Maranello-bound and the latter heading in the opposite direction to Renault.
Such talk has been fuelled by Alonso's contention that he 'really believes that with whatever team [he] will be with next season [he] will be able to fight for the championship' and Renault managing director Flavio Briatore revealing to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
: “It is logical that I support Ferrari, as an Italian, as Flavio Briatore, as Renault, for the relationship we have with Ferrari.”
Moreover, whilst acknowledging former McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton's superb Shanghai performance and title credentials – telling Spanish newspaper El Pais
that 'he was fastest in the practices, got the pole and won the race; it is unquestionable that he deserves it. The championship is always won by the best driver, so if Hamilton wins in the end it will be because he has collected more points than anyone else' – Alonso equally admitted that he had elected not to 'get into a fight with Felipe [Massa]' at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix, a tactic which enabled the second McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen to briefly get ahead of him on the race's opening lap.
The Oviedo native had previously hinted that he would 'help' the Ferrari star to beat Hamilton to the laurels should the opportunity arise, whilst the Stevenage-born ace hit back by claiming Alonso is 'a double world champion who got beaten by a rookie' last year [see separate story – click here