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Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 14:22 UK

Alonso 'will switch to Ferrari'

Venue: Valencia Dates: 21-23 August 2009 Coverage: Live coverage of Friday's practice sessions, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race - which starts at 1300 BST - across BBC TV, radio and online platforms. Find full listings here

Fernando Alonso
Two-time world champion Alonso is considered one of the most gifted F1 drivers

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport in Valencia

Fernando Alonso will move from Renault to Ferrari next year and spark a cascade of other driver changes, according to McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

The double world champion's expected switch is an open secret in Formula 1, but Whitmarsh is the first senior figure publicly to acknowledge it.

"I think we all know that the Fernando-Ferrari move has a knock-on effect that ripples through the other teams," he said.

Ferrari said Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa were already contracted for 2010.

"He (Whitmarsh) can say what he wants, there is no 'Fernando-Ferrari move'," said a spokesman for the Italian team.

"Things can happen and not happen. But you cannot talk about any Fernando-Ferrari move. We have two drivers with a contract until the end of 2010. We are not under pressure to change anything."

In reality there are some changes probably with Fernando and Ferrari and that frees up the driver market

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh

Alonso, who denied last month that he had signed a contract with Ferrari, has ducked questions about his future since arriving in Valencia for this weekend's European Grand Prix.

Whitmarsh's remarks were made in an interview with BBC Sport in which he addressed rumours that McLaren will replace Heikki Kovalainen with Nico Rosberg as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate next year.

"At the moment we have not had, nor are we in, conversations with any other drivers and we will see in the future. In reality, there are some changes probably with Fernando and Ferrari and that frees up the driver market," he said.

"Every year there are a number of pivotal points during the season which determine what is going to happen in the drivers' market.

Stefano Domenicali

Ferrari keep quiet over Alonso rumours

"This year I think we all know that the Fernando-Ferrari move has a knock on and that ripples through the other teams.

"Clearly the BMW withdrawal will also have an impact.

"So I don't think we see a need at the moment to rush into it. I think we are concentrating on developing the car and making sure we are more competitive, which I think we will be this weekend.

"Heikki is pushing hard. He is a driver who can drive the car very quickly - if you look at his fuel corrected qualifying times, he has been massively competitive.

"But he hasn't performed quite as well as he - and we - would like him to in the races."

Ferrari are reported to be planning to partner Alonso with Massa and are said to be in negotiations with Raikkonen's management to pay off a proportion of the Finn's 2010 contract before moving him on to another team.

Brawn, Renault and Toyota have all been linked with the 29-year-old, who won the world championship in his first year with Ferrari in 2007.

But the injury suffered by Massa at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month has complicated matters.

He is recovering from the fractured skull and damaged eye he sustained after he was hit on the helmet by a spring that had become detached from Rubens Barrichello's Brawn, so there is some doubt about when and whether he will be able to make a full return to F1.

In that context, Ferrari may wish to keep open the possibility of Raikkonen driving for the team in 2010 in the event that Massa fails to make a full recovery.

Massa, who is recuperating at home in Brazil, has targeted a return at his home Grand Prix on 18 October, and was visited last week by Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.


But the Ferrari spokesman said it was too early to predict any comeback by Massa.

"We are all happy Felipe is getting better and better every day. But we are all - including Felipe - aware that we have to be patient.

"He is having another CT (brain) scan at the end of this month or the beginning of September and we will have a better picture after that.

"From the human point of view, he is already close to 100%. Then he has to complete a physical recovery process. After that he will have to start again his physical preparation, because at the moment he cannot do anything (about improving his fitness).

"At the moment we are all happy he is recovering so quickly. We are pretty confident. For him and everyone it would be a dream if he could race in Brazil.

"But we know we have to face the reality and the reality is to take it step by step."

The driver market is wide open as F1 heads into its traditional 'silly season'.

BMW's decision to withdraw from F1 at the end of the season has put their two drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld on the market.

Kubica, the more highly rated of the two, has been linked to a move to Williams in place of Rosberg on a one-year deal, but could also interest Brawn and Renault, who would need a top-liner to replace Alonso, assuming his move to Ferrari goes ahead.

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Rosberg targets switch to McLaren
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F1 on the BBC
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