Ferrari boss Jean Todt has added to the speculation linking Fernando Alonso to a potential all-star line-up at Maranello in 2009 by insisting that the Spaniard is the equal of his latest world champion.

Asked to compare the two pilots, Todt took the diplomatic line, claiming that there was nothing to choose between them except differences produced by their respective teams - although he did admit that Raikkonen was the more suitable fit for Ferrari at this moment in time.

"I can't say if Kimi is better or worse than Alonso," he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, "I cannot tell since both are excellent pilots. The character of Raikkonen fits better to our team but, in the end, any difference comes down to the cars they are driving."

While last season saw both drivers equally matched at Ferrari and McLaren respectively, Alonso finds himself back at Renault for 2008 and, according to general opinion, with a lot of work to do if he is to challenge both Raikkonen and former McLaren nemesis Lewis Hamilton for the title.

The regie slipped back from the front of the pack in 2007 after its pre-season preparations were hampered by the attention focused on Alonso's 2006 title campaign, and neither Giancarlo Fisichella or Heikki Kovalainen were able to turn its fortunes around. The Finn managed to reach the podium in Japan, but that was the high point of a season that saw the team make substantial changes to its car without ever reaching the potential of the previous two campaigns.

Alonso will be paired with Nelson Piquet Jr this season - prompting speculation that he may again find himself pushed hard by a rapid rookie - while Raikkonen continues in an unchanged line-up alongside Felipe Massa. Ferrari will also have its new car up and running well before Renault, with respective launch dates of 6 January and 31 January.

Todt's comments, however, echo similar praise for Alonso issued by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who went out of his way to congratulate the Spaniard on his performance in 2007, prompting suggestions that, wherever he headed for 2008, it would be a temporary lay-over before lining up with Raikkonen in 2009.

 

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