Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio has confessed his fear that record-breaking multiple world champion Valentino Rossi will be lured away to F1 by Ferrari once his current contract expires – suggesting that the Prancing Horse is a bigger danger to poaching the MotoGP legend from his grasp than is arch-rival Ducati.
Rossi's two-day test aboard a two-year-old Ferrari F2008 at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona last week – a reward for his seventh premier class crown in 2009 – has once again sent the rumour mill into overdrive, after the Italian posted impressive lap times, the best of which was barely two tenths of a second shy of the lap record around the track, set by Kimi Raikkonen, and under a tenth away from the Finn's 2008 Spanish Grand Prix pole position benchmark.
The marker was also less than a second-and-a-half adrift of the quickest time registered during the low-fuel Q2 qualifying session for the same race – set by Felipe Massa in a similar car – even if Rossi ran on GP2 Series slick tyres rather than grooved rubber to circumvent the stringent F1 testing ban, and the climactic conditions were rather different.
It was a noteworthy performance by any standards, and the Scuderia's
team principal Stefano Domenicali has made little secret of his desire to run the Urbino native in a third car should the FIA consent to such a rule change, which the governing body has thus far been unwilling to do.
Whilst having admitted that Barcelona was chosen as the test venue 'to make a clear comparison' between MotoGP and F1 given that both series race there, Rossi has repeatedly stressed that at 30, the window of opportunity for him to switch disciplines from two wheels to four and join the grand prix grid has now passed. His occasional test outings for Ferrari, he reasons, are merely 'a diversion, some fun' [see separate story – click here
] – but others, Brivio clearly included, are not so sure.
“The greatest danger is Ferrari,” he told Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
, when asked about speculation that his charge is being courted for 2011 by Ducati. “I have to be worried about these excellent times, because Valentino really could get the desire to change sport.”
Whilst the signs hint that a change of heart is not altogether out of the question – given that Rossi is still young enough and seemingly also fast enough to fulfil Michael Schumacher's prophecy that he could similarly succeed in F1 – 'The Doctor' has conceded that if he does one day make a 'second career' out of car racing, it will most likely be in rallying rather than single-seaters, adding that he has 'some time left' yet to make a decision.
The 103-time race-winner has participated in a number of rallying forays in recent years, most notably the 2008 Wales Rally GB, on which he finished twelfth in a Malcolm Wilson-run Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focus WRC.
“As of tomorrow my job is to ride a motorbike,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport
following his Ferrari test. “I'll decide my future in a few months. I've also had an offer from Ducati. It will all be clear in a few months.”
Last year, Rossi reportedly issued his employer with an ultimatum for 2011, offering the Japanese manufacturer the option of either losing team-mate Jorge Lorenzo – or losing him [see separate story – click here
]. Ducati is known to be waiting in the wings – unless Ferrari gets there first...