Massa renewal leaves pundits puzzled
Alonso to Ferrari theories scuppered
The news on Tuesday of Felipe Massa's new Ferrari contract was met by almost universal surprise in F1 circles.
The 26-year-old Brazilian has driven relatively well and won three Grand Prix this year, but it had been strongly rumoured that Fernando Alonso was edging towards a Ferrari deal for 2009 amid high level talks with the Italian marque's President Luca di Montezemolo.
"Everyone here is astonished," Jayme Brito, a producer with Brazil's national TV Globo network, was quoted as responding to the news by the Independent newspaper.
He added: "It is not the proper time for such a thing, and there is a strong suspicion that it may be a smokescreen for other things."
One such theory is that there may be more than meets the eye to Tuesday's 81-word Ferrari press release.
For example, while the team announced that Massa's agreement has been extended through to the end of 2010, it was not specifically made clear that his role must always be as a race driver.
The second sentence of the statement begins with the information that 'Felipe has been contracted to the Scuderia since 2001', but Massa only made his Grand Prix debut in 2002 - for the Ferrari-powered team Sauber.
He was then Ferrari's test driver in 2003, before returning to Sauber for two more years.
Massa only raced a Ferrari for the first time in 2006.
Much has also been made of the tense political situation at Ferrari this year, with Montezemolo supposedly pushing for Ross Brawn to succeed Jean Todt as team boss in preparation for a new era that involves Alonso in the cockpit.
Todt, on the other hand, has previously and publicly lobbied against signing Alonso, while his son Nicolas is Massa's manager.
Spanish Diario As journalist Carlos Miquel on Wednesday concurred that Massa's re-signing through to 2010 is a more than 81-word story.
"The only thing that is for sure is that Raikkonen is now in a weaker position with regards to the possible arrival of Alonso in 2009," he wrote.
Raikkonen's current contract runs until the end of the 2009 season, with Massa's new deal expiring a year later. Massa's previous deal for 2007 and 2008 was announced at Monza last year.