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Ferrari set to hold on to Felipe Massa for 2011

27 May 10 13:06 GMT

Ferrari say they are almost certain to retain Felipe Massa alongside Fernando Alonso next season.

Massa has struggled to match Alonso since the Spaniard joined this year.

And there has been speculation over Massa's future, with Renault's Robert Kubica and Red Bull's Mark Webber linked with a move to the Italian team.

But asked in a BBC Sport interview whether Ferrari would retain the same driver line-up, team boss Stefano Domenicali said: "Yes, I think so."

Asked if he was sure, he said: "Yes."

Although Domenicali's words are not definitive, his tone and manner in the interview, which is embedded at the top of this story on the internet, give the impression that keeping Massa is the team's strong preference.

BBC Sport understands that as long as Massa can stay respectably close to Alonso in the next few races, the Brazilian will be confirmed in his position for one more year.

Alonso and Massa are third and fifth in the drivers' championship, while Ferrari are 20 points behind Red Bull in the constructors' championship.

Ferrari brought in Alonso to replace Kimi Raikkonen this season and the Spaniard has quickly established himself as the lead driver.

However, the 28-year-old double champion has also made high-profile errors, including a collision at the start of the Australian Grand Prix, jumping the start in China and missing qualifying in Monaco after crashing during practice.

Despite the errors, Alonso is only three points behind Red Bull pair Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel going into this weekend's race in Turkey and Domenicali believes his driver will become "very strong" by the end of the season.

"I don't want to speak about mistakes," added the team principal.

"We are a group and the team do the best with the car and the drivers do the best with the performance.

"I'm very pleased with him. He came into team in a fantastic way and I think that he gave input to the team and I say let's wait until the end of the season. He will be very strong - I have no doubt about that."

The Italian boss also backed Massa to shine, starting in Istanbul, saying: "He likes this place a lot.

"Massa was struggling with the hard tyres in certain conditions in the first part of the year, so I think that is the area we need to work with him so he has more confidence in the car.

"It's easy to criticise a driver when he is not performing well, so we need to make sure the package for him is the best."

The Turkish race will be Ferrari's 800th grand prix - more than any other team in the history of the sport.

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