WEDNESDAY 3RD AUGUST 2005
Despite having a contract which ran until the end of the 2006 season, Rubens Barrichello is to leave Ferrari at the end of the season and will be replaced by fellow countryman Felipe Massa.
Over the course of the weekend in Hungary, Sauber team boss Peter Sauber was quoted as saying "I would have liked to keep Felipe with my team for one more year, but it's too late now," fuelling speculation that the youngster would be making a switch to the Scuderia for 2006 – with Barrichello reportedly on his way to BAR.
However in a statement, Ferrari confirmed that the speculation regarding Massa is indeed correct and he will partner Michael Schumacher next season.
"Ferrari announces that it has taken up a renewable option in a contract that dates back to 2001, tying the driver Felipe Massa to the Scuderia," the statement read. "Therefore, the agreement means that Felipe will race for the team for the 2006 season.
"Rubens Barrichello will leave the team at the end of the 2005 season, after a successful and rewarding collaboration that dates back to 2000 and has contributed, to date, to the winning of five Constructors' World Championships."
While there has been no word as of yet from BAR as to whether or not it is true that Barrichello will be with them next season – with team boss Nick Fry telling Crash.net it wasn't possible to say at the moment if the Brazilian will be with the Honda backed team for next season – the announcement from Ferrari will increase speculation that an announcement will soon be made which will see Rubens race for BAR next season.
It would then leave BAR to decide who to partner the Brazilian with, with the obvious number one choice being Jenson Button – although that driver line-up will only happen if Button can solve the current contract wrangles he has with the BMW Williams team. Although both BAR and the Briton have repeatedly stressed their desire to remain together, the Contracts Recogntion Board is likely to rule that Williams gets its man, which would leave a seat at BAR for Takuma Sato – already a favourite of the teams Japanese engine supplier and 45 per cent stakeholder.
If Button does indeed join Williams alongside Mark Webber, then Massa's departure from Sauber would conveniently open a seat for Nick Heidfeld to return to the fold with new owners BMW. The German company are believed to be keen to keep 'Quick Nick' on board when it launches its own team in 2006.
One thing that is for sure is that Ferrari's announcement means that Formula One heads into the summer break with the rumour mill going into overdrive and the drivers merry-go round starting to spin...
Ferrari drivers today and tomorrow? Felipe Massa and Rubens Barrichello at the Hungarian Grand Prix