Will Gray

Gray Matter: Raikkonen holds the keys

Will Gray

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So Fernando Alonso will not be going to Ferrari next year. Or will
he?

It's the silly
season again, the time when drivers are rumoured to be headed in new directions
for 2010 and each has to dispel stories and suggestions using cunning words
that ensure they are not lying but perhaps may not be entirely telling the
truth either.

Alonso to Ferrari was the latest rumour in the
paddock ahead of this weekend's
German Grand Prix and sure enough the Spaniard denied that he is in talks with
Ferrari and denied he has signed a contract - but when he is talking to a group
of journalists in Renault's
motorhome sitting next to a Renault press officer what else is he going to say?

Since Alonso displayed his spectacular talent behind the
wheel of a Formula One car to win his first world title, hardly a year has gone
by without him being in some way connected to Ferrari, and this week it seems
the rumours were stronger than ever. Many, in fact, believe a two-year deal has
long been done.

But hang on a minute - Ferrari have two contracted
drivers in the shape of Kimi Raikkonen, in place to the end of 2010, and Felipe
Massa, now contracted to the end of 2011. So unless the Italian team wants to
pay the likely fee of around £25m to prise Raikkonen out of his seat or they
decide to turn against Massa, who seems to be a popular figure at the team
right now, there will be no room in the prancing horse's
stable in 2010.

So far this season it has seemed apparent that Raikkonen
has had enough of life at Ferrari and might want out. 'Icecreamgate' in Malaysia hinted early in the season at his lack
of desire, while his decision to compete in Rally Finland has brought claims
that his eye is off the ball (even though Sebastien Bourdais's similarly 'off
the ball' decision to do Le Mans
passed without criticism).

The Spanish media claim there is backing from sponsors in
Spain that could give Ferrari the cash needed to shoehorn Raikkonen out of his
contract and pave the way for Alonso - but last week they claimed that Ferrari
and their sponsors were working on ways to get Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel into the seat.

Some rumours suggest that Raikkonen, who will be 30 at
the end of this year and has had nine seasons in the sport, may be ready to
retire. He has denied that this weekend, but Alonso's
manager Flavio Briatore would surely be happy to make a space for the Finn at
Renault if his Spanish driver secured a commercially lucrative association with
Ferrari. And that could suit everyone nicely.

The Vettel rumour adds another intriguing angle to the
rumoured Ferrari seat shuffle. Red Bull are determined not to lose Vettel, who
has risen up its driver programme, but rumours that Michael Schumacher is keen
to see him follow in his footsteps plus all the other opportunities that
Ferrari brings could be tempting for the young German. And would Red Bull fancy
a newly inspired Raikkonen in his place? It could be a good trade. Would
Raikkonen fancy a Red Bull drive? Right now, you bet!

So the keys to Ferrari's
door are firmly in the hands of Raikkonen. Currently he is locked inside but he
has plenty of options to make his escape. It's
only a matter of time before he reveals which way he will turn...

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