Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Prancing Horse Is Picking Up Speed

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Prancing Horse Is Picking Up Speed

Article excerpt

Byline: David Smith Sports Correspondent

COME every Italian Grand Prix, the Autodromo Nationale de Monza is transformed into one of the most atmospheric sporting arenas to be found anywhere in the would. Situated in a former royal park just north of Milan, the place comes alive with a sea of colour and a deafening noise.

This weekend, however, there will be more red flags and tee-shirts than usual, and the cheers will resonate just a little louder -- for Ferrari are back in the hunt.

The desperate disappointment of last year's drivers' title chase, when Felipe Massa lost out on the last corner of the last lap of the last race to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, has been confined to the memory bank.

And a dreadful current campaign marred by the near-fatal accident of Massa in Hungary, the debacle of Michael Schumacher's failed comeback, and the production of a racing car that until just recently has proved no match for that of former employee Ross Brawn, has finally been lifted by Kimi Raikkonen's storming win in Belgium two weeks ago.

"Bit by bit, we are putting everything right again," said Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. "Victory is the best medicine."

No wonder Brawn GP and McLaren are casting wary eyes in the direction of Ferrari. The announcement today of a major sponsorship deal with the Spanish financial group Santander, owners of the Abbey bank and previously major backers of McLaren, will merely add to the wave of optimism.

Massa is on the mend and the highly popular little Brazilian is already making plans to return to the cockpit next year, when he will almost certainly be joined by Spain's Fernando Alonso.

His projected move from Renault, facilitated by the Santander deal, will enable the two-times world champion to realise a long-held dream to drive for the most iconic name in Formula One and he is expected to respond behind the wheel with results.

Despite five races remaining this season, Ferrari's focus has already been switched to an all-out challenge in 2010, with technical director Aldo Costa conceding that painful lessons were learned from last year's head-tohead duel with McLaren. …

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