Ferrari plays down driver uncertainty for 2014 as speculation mounts

Will Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa be teammates in 2014

Will Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa be teammates in 2014?

Amid Formula 1’s silliest ever silly season, even Fernando Alonso – with a long term Ferrari contract – is being asked by paddock reporters to reveal his plans for 2014, while a host of drivers have beat a path to Maranello hoping to replace Felipe Massa in the team.

The Spaniard on Thursday played down a spat with president Luca di Montezemolo, but the question was still posed – did his boss ask him to re-commit to the Ferrari team beyond this season?

“I think the president is a very intelligent man who is very well informed about everything,” said Alonso. “In this respect there was no need to ask me this question.”

But given the scale of the paddock intrigue at Spa-Francorchamps, that Alonso did not give a categorical answer will not be lost on many.

Fernando Alonso speaks to media at Spa

Fernando Alonso speaks to media at Spa

In reality, however, Alonso had simply spoken out of turn in Hungary, and was slapped on the wrist by Montezemolo. The team’s beloved number 1 was doing some media damage-control on Thursday.

The real question is who his teammate will be in 2014. Reports suggest that Felipe Massa has been given two more races – Spa and Monza – to prove that he should get a new contract.

Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Jules Bianchi, and perhaps even Jenson Button are being linked with the seat.

But team boss Stefano Domenicali told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper on Thursday that Massa is “absolutely yes” still at the top of the Ferrari shortlist.

The Italian played down the other rumours.

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa during a promotional photo shoot at Spa

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa during a promotional photo shoot at Spa

“We have had Hulkenberg, di Resta, and many, many others [linked to Massa’s seat],” said Domenicali.

“Without wishing to be repetitive, we are not going to say now that we are deciding who will partner Fernando next year. We are calm, as our priorities are elsewhere.”

Even so, the questions were still being posed to the major players. Like Alonso, who made it clear that he is “not afraid” of being paired with Raikkonen next year. But the Spaniard also insisted that he thinks that Massa is the best option.

“Felipe was better than [Raikkonen at Ferrari] in 2008 and 2009,” said Alonso.

Brazilian correspondent Livio Oricchio, however, said it is obvious that Massa’s manager, Nicolas Todt, has been busy in recent weeks, lining up a 2014 alternative. Massa doesn’t deny that.

Felipe Massa leads Kimi Raikkonen during the 2007 season

Felipe Massa leads Kimi Raikkonen during the 2007 season

“It’s good to have an idea of what is there for the future,” he said. “I’m not ready to stop racing. It’s also logical that Ferrari is looking at some options.”

Many in the paddock think the time has definitely arrived for Ferrari to make a change.

“Felipe is a great guy,” British commentator Martin Brundle is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport, “but I would be disappointed if Ferrari keep him for another year.”

Fellow broadcaster Johnny Herbert agrees: “Felipe is quick, he’s just not consistent enough.”

Massa responded: “What some others say, I don’t care. I care what I believe and what people in the team say to me.” (GMM)

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