FERRARI PRESIDENT Luca di Montezemolo has revealed for the first time that the Scuderia team is considering releasing former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen from the final year of his contract.
Raikkonen has long been thought to have the skates under him, with Ferrari rumoured to have secured the services of Fernando Alonso from next year.
However, until now, di Montezemolo and Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali have repeatedly issued denials, reassuring the Finn that the team would honour his contract.
But with Raikkonen now in the sights of Mercedes-backed outfits Brawn GP and McLaren, di Montezemolo has told Italian newspaper La Stampa the team will make an announcement regarding its 2010 driver pairing next month.
"A Spanish or a Finnish driver? We'll take some decisions within a few weeks," he said. "What's certain is that we'll have a Brazilian driver who deserves another chance, because thank God he is fine now. As for the rest, we are pondering over the best choice."
The second highest paid sportsperson in the world, Raikkonen is likely to take a pay cut when he moves away from Ferrari, forcing the team to pay out the final year of his $US50 million contract.
With the first piece of the 2010 puzzle now seemingly in place, Raikkonen?s likely departure will spark a flurry of activity in the driver market, although much is dependent on the 29-year-old?s next destination.
If Raikkonen signs with McLaren, it has been suggested that Brawn GP will then oust Rubens Barrichello and hand a seat to outgoing Williams star Nico Rosberg. Mercedes is apparently keen to insert a German behind the wheel of one of their machines.
However, should Barrichello overcome Jenson Button in the race for the driver?s championship, Brawn is expected to retain its current pairing, forcing McLaren to decide between Rosberg and Raikkonen.