Ferrari extend Raikkonen's contract

MONZA, Italy (Reuters) – Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Brazilian Felipe Massa will stay at Ferrari for the next two seasons, the Italian team said in a statement on Friday.

The announcement dealt a blow to the hopes of Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Poland’s Robert Kubica, both of whom have been linked to the team in media speculation as likely replacements for Raikkonen in 2010.

"Ferrari announces that it has extended its agreement with Kimi Raikkonen to the end of the 2010 race season," Ferrari said at the Italian Grand Prix. "Therefore…(Ferrari’s) driver lineup remains unchanged for the next two coming seasons."

Massa, world champion Raikkonen’s current team mate, already had a contract to the end of 2010 while Raikkonen’s was due to expire in 2009.

Raikkonen’s future had been subjected to considerable scrutiny following poor performances on the track and the driver himself refusing to rule out retirement before the end of his contract.

Massa, who has won five races to his team mate’s two this year, is currently 17 points ahead of Raikkonen with five races remaining and likely to be in a position soon to demand that the Finn support his title challenge.

Alonso, the double world champion who rejoined Renault after an unhappy 2007 season with McLaren, has been repeatedly linked to Ferrari although Honda have been pushing hard to sign him for next season.

The Spaniard’s future is key to the driver market, with several teams waiting to see where he goes before confirming their lineups.

Kubica, third in the drivers’ championship for BMW-Sauber, had also been seen as a strong contender to switch to Ferrari for 2010.

Raikkonen joined Ferrari from McLaren at the end of 2006 while Massa joined a year earlier. The Brazilian has spent all of his Formula One career in Ferrari-engined cars, having started out with Sauber in 2002.