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October 1, 2009

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Drivers eye new teams

FERNANDO Alonso's move to Ferrari, possibly to be confirmed within hours rather than days, will give the Formula One driver merry-go-round the big push that all have been waiting for.

The deal has been considered a given for months now, with Finland's 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen set to make way next year at the Italian team, which now has Spanish bank Santander as a major backer.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali cranked up the speculation when he said after last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix that the team did not want to wait much longer before announcing its 2010 line-up.

Renault managing director Jean-Francois Caubet had already hinted strongly that his team's double world champion was on the way out.

The Guardian then quoted a close friend of the Spaniard saying everything appeared to be sorted: "He (Alonso) looked like a guy who'd pulled off the deal of his life," he said of the Spaniard's demeanor in Singapore.

Media reports have suggested that the announcement could be as early as today, when teams gather at the Suzuka circuit for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

Spain's Marca newspaper said Alonso had agreed a three-year deal paying around 20 million euros (US$29.14 million) a year, some seven million less than Raikkonen was said to be getting.

Raikkonen has a deal with Ferrari for next year, as does recovering Brazilian Felipe Massa, but is now seen likely to return to his previous team McLaren as Lewis Hamilton's teammate in a line-up of champions. That will force fellow-Finn Heikki Kovalainen to look elsewhere.

Of the top teams, only Red Bull has its line-up confirmed with Australian Mark Webber again partnering German Sebastian Vettel.


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