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Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 17:55 UK

Ferrari keep Raikkonen until 2010

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at Monza

Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen joined Ferrari from McLaren at the end of 2006

Ferrari have extended world champion Kimi Raikkonen's contract to the end of the 2010 season, ending speculation about the Finn's future at the team.

Raikkonen's deal had been due to end at the end of 2009, and there had been reports that Fernando Alonso was set to replace him.

But Ferrari said in a statement on Friday that their line-up would remain unchanged for the next two seasons.

Raikkonen's team-mate Felipe Massa also has a contract until 2010.

Raikkonen has produced a string of unconvincing performances this season, when he has often looked a shadow of the man who made a spectacular late charge to win his first drivers' title last season.

The 28-year-old, who is the highest-paid driver in F1, has often been overshadowed by Massa this season.

606: DEBATE
Riku
He lies fourth in the championship, 17 points behind the Brazilian, 19 behind McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and one behind BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, heading into Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Raikkonen has so far indicated his reluctance to help Massa's title bid while he still has a mathematical chance of winning the championship himself.

It remains to be seen whether his new deal will have any effect on that approach.

So lacklustre have some of his performances been that there had even been claims in recent months that Raikkonen might leave the team at the end of this season, freeing up a space for Alonso.

Ferrari say they have extended his contract because they have faith in his ability.

Nevertheless, the decision has been met with some mystification as it appears to end their chances of signing either Alonso or Kubica until at least 2011.

The Spanish double world champion is known to be a favourite of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and is keen to drive for Ferrari in the future.

I need to see if next year's car will be any better, if not, I will try to choose my best possibility for next year

Fernando Alonso
Alonso has an option to get out of his two-year Renault contract at the end of this season if he wishes and is being courted by the struggling Honda team, as well as BMW Sauber.

He remains the key to this season's driver market, but his options for the future have narrowed considerably now he knows that there will likely be no seat at Ferrari available until at least 2011.

"Talking about 2010 or 2011, this seems crazy to me," said Alonso. "I cannot put my future two years forward. I want to win races as soon as possible, and this is starting from 2009.

"I don't know when I will decide my future. I just need to make sure of what the possibilities are for next year and how Renault will approach next year. I will decide as soon as I can.

"Two years ago Renault was world champion so they should know how to make a fast car.

"This year is not as good as we thought and I need to see if next year's car will be any better. If not, obviously, I will try to choose my best possibility for next year."

Kubica is also highly rated as a potential front-runner and while he has committed to stay at BMW until the end of next season, he, too, was keeping himself available for a possible Ferrari drive in 2010.



see also
Raikkonen sets pace in practice
12 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Raikkonen vows to continue fight
10 Sep 08 |  Formula One
McLaren discover date for appeal
12 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton stripped of Belgian win
07 Sep 08 |  Formula One
I need win in Belgium - Raikkonen
04 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Raikkonen given Ferrari backing
29 Aug 08 |  Formula One
Raikkonen defiant over poor form
28 Aug 08 |  Formula One


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