There's little to do in the three week summer break except poke the rumour mill and see what squeals, and even that only seems to have the never-ending Michael Schumacher/Kimi Raikkonen speculation to fall back on. The latest episode of the...
There's little to do in the three week summer break except poke the rumour mill and see what squeals, and even that only seems to have the never-ending Michael Schumacher/Kimi Raikkonen speculation to fall back on. The latest episode of the Michael & Kimi show is the one where Schumacher isn't retiring and Raikkonen will join him at Ferrari.
Popular theory previously had it that Raikkonen wouldn't don a red racesuit while number-one-son Michael still had his mitts on the Scuderia steering wheel. However, the latest rumours suggest that Ferrari has deigned to give Kimi equal No.1 status. Allegedly Felipe Massa will be shunted into a test role with a hefty pay rise.
However, is Mercedes making a bid to hang on to The Iceman? The German media reports that DaimlerChrysler is close to acquiring the other 60% stake in the McLaren Group to go with the 40% that it already owns. Team boss Ron Dennis and partner Mansour Ojjeh, of the TAG Group, currently own 30% each of that other 60%.
Supposedly part of the buyout includes a financially substantial two-year deal for Raikkonen. A spokesman for Mercedes has been quoted as saying it's possible that DaimlerChrysler could raise its stake in McLaren but a decision has not yet been made. He added that should any kind of deal take place, Dennis would remain at the helm.
It would pretty much be McLaren's dream team to have Raikkonen partnering current champion Fernando Alonso, who announced his intention to move to McLaren for 2007 late last year. But is it too late; has this long-rumoured deal between Kimi and Ferrari already taken place? And if it has, why are they taking so long to confirm it?
Some think that Schumacher intends to announce his retirement but wanted to wait until late in the season so as not to destabilise Ferrari while there was a chance for the championship. That argument is not without merit but the title fight certainly isn't going to be over by Monza, when Ferrari's plans are expected to be made clear.
There's also mystery surrounding the futures of Ferrari chief Jean Todt and technical director Ross Brawn. The former is speculated to be thinking about retirement and the latter about taking a sabbatical year in 2007. Whether Schumacher retires or not appears to have given rise to these rumours, as all three men are key pieces in the Ferrari puzzle.
Renault was known to be interested in Raikkonen but talk of that has quietly fizzled out, so it seems there are only two likely outcomes. Either Raikkonen remains at McLaren with Alonso or goes to Ferrari to partner Schumacher, if he stays, or Massa if Michael retires. Remember, I said likely outcomes -- random acts of madness are not accounted for.
The fact that Ferrari has made a big deal of not confirming its plans until Monza, its home race, rather suggests that some kind of significant announcement is in the offing. Schumacher retiring or Raikkonen joining would fit the bill -- if the team is just keeping the line up of Schumacher and Massa there is no reason for all the secrecy.
Massa was confirmed for this season straight after Hungary last year; Ferrari didn't wait for that so why wait this time if Schumacher and Massa are already on board? It doesn't make any sense, so one can only presume that Ferrari has a specific reason to want to have the final episode of this soap opera at Monza.