Formula One legend and Ferrari favourite Niki Lauda insists that he has the inside line on a deal between the Scuderia and Spanish star Fernando Alonso - claiming that the two will unite sometime in the next two seasons.

While not exactly breaking news, Lauda's claims appear to underline the fact that Alonso is Ferrari's chosen target to replace Michael Schumacher as and when the German retires. Indeed, Lauda admitted that Alonso could even partner the six-time world champion should Ferrari's approaches prove successful.

"Flavio Briatore will not stop Alonso going to Ferrari in exchange for a considerable sum of money," the Austrian veteran told Spanish newspaper Marca during last weekend's Cagliari street racing festival, "Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are the most obvious young talents, but one is already out of the reach of Maranello, and it won't want to miss out on the other. It could be that he shares a season with Michael Schumacher before he retires."

Lauda, who was present in Sardinia to comment on the F3000 and F3 races for German TV station RTL, went on to say that Alonso had already slipped through Ferrari's fingers once before.

"Ferrari could have obtained his contract in 2000, just by paying half a million Euros to Giancarlo Minardi, who already had him lined up to drive for the next season," he revealed, "But Maranello wanted to have him for practically nothing, and now will have to pay Flavio Briatore much more than that."

Briatore was quick to realise Alonso's potential, and snapped him up after a single season at Minardi. The Spaniard repaid the faith shown in him by winning this season's Hungarian Grand Prix for Briatore's Renault team.



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