Yamaha MotoGP team boss Davide Brivio is worried that nine-time MotoGP champ Valentino Rossi is about to be poached by the Ferrari Formula 1 team. Rossi completed a three-day test at Jerez last week, setting respectable times. He came within a shade of equaling Kimi Raikkonen’s lap record in a similar F2008 two years ago.
The lap times aren’t exactly comparable. Raikkonen set his time early in the season, at an early point on the car’s development cycle for that year, and on grooved tires. Rossi, on the other hand, used a season-end iteration of the F2008, which incorporated the full compliment of 2008 upgrades, and ran on GP2 slicks. Bottom line: Rossi’s version of the F2008 would have been quicker, and would have had more grip. Nevertheless, Rossi’s performance was impressive enough to convince most observers that a move from MotoGP to F1 would be a feasible option for the Italian ace.
In fact, Davide Brivio believes that Ferrari is ready to steal Rossi away from Yamaha, and from MotoGP entirely. As reported in Autosport, Brivio said, “I have to be worried about these excellent times because Valentino really could get the desire to change sport. The greatest danger is Ferrari.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has said that Rossi would be an ideal candidate to drive a third car should the FIA revise its current rules to allow teams to run third cars. The third-car deployment seems to be an ongoing ambition of Ferrari’s. Over the past year or two, Ferrari/Fiat CEO Luca di Montezemolo has stated on numerous occasions that it was his desire to run a third car for the ostensibly retired Michael Schumacher. However, the FIA has never shown the least inclination to allow three-car teams, and even if the proposal were put forth, it would require the approval of the other teams, some of whom, most notably Williams, have already voiced their disapproval.
Rossi is under contract to Yamaha for 2010, but after that he would be free to make a change. As for Ferrari, they’ve just signed Fernando Alonso to a new three-year deal, while Felipa Massa’s contract runs out at the end of 2010. Would the Scuderia be willing to swap Massa for Rossi? Unlikely. Massa is a title-contender and a known quantity. While Rossi is undoubtedly gifted, and Italian, choosing him over Massa would be quite gamble. Such a choice could only be made on the premise that Rossi would be quicker than Massa, and considering that Massa, on balance, out-performed Kimi Raikkonen over the past two years, that seems unlikely. So unless the FIA makes an unexpected about face on regulations, it seems that Rossi will be limited to the odd F1 test for the foreseeable future.
(Image source: ferrariworld)