AUGUST 28, 2006
The future shape of Ferrari
Felipe Massa's victory in Turkey was just what Ferrari needed in the Constructors' Championship but not at all what the company needed when it comes to making decisions about the future driver line-up of the team. It is very clear that Kimi Raikkonen has a solid contract with Ferrari for next year. This is expected to be announced during the course of the Monza weekend. Felipe Massa may end up being dropped by the team to make way for Michael Schumacher but dropping a race winner, even if it is to put him into a testing role, is not going to generate good publicity. Ferrari probably does not care about that because it has long adopted a very bizarre way of dealing with the media. But if Massa stays, then Michael Schumacher must be leaving as teams are currently not allowed to run three cars.
This has been hinted at many times in recent weeks, most recently by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who usually knows about these things. Several other very good sources indicate that Michael is stopping but the man himself says that Ecclestone and others cannot know his decision "because even I do not".
At the same time there is one story that keeps popping up again and again: that Ross Brawn is going to step down from his role as technical director and take a year off. It is hard to imagine that happening because in F1 if someone disappears the job is instantly taken by someone else. Thus, the only way that Brawn can take a sabbatical is if there is another job he knows he is going to get in 2008. That could only be to take over Jean Todt's role as head of the competition department at Ferrari. The team has plenty of engineers to step up into Brawn's role, not least Greece's Nick Tombazis, who has been looking for a big high-profile job and left McLaren when he did not get it there.
There has also been speculation that Michael Schumacher may end up as a Ferrari F1 front man as well, as he does not seem to have any idea what to do with himself if he gives up being a racing driver. The fact that he could do nothing at all does not seem to have entered his head.
Brawn says that the structure will be announced "after the season finishes" because the team is trying to win the World Championships and does not want any disruption at the moment. One can speculate that 2007 will be a transition year with Todt easing out of his role, Brawn on holiday and perhaps Michael trying his hand at a new role before a final structure is created for 2008.
That would leave Raikkonen and Massa to get on with the racing, which might not be a bad idea given the number of mistakes Michael has been making recently.
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