Raikkonen may replace Schumacher at Ferrari in 2007

Michael Schumacher's future at Ferrari appeared in doubt Thursday following a report that he would be replaced by Kimi Raikkonen after the 2006 season.

German daily Bild said the seven-time Formula One champion would make way for Raikkonen when Schumacher's contract expires after next year's season. Raikkonen now drives for McLaren-Mercedes.

Bild said Raikkonen and Ferrari signed a preliminary deal in May. Chief Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni denied that it had already signed any drivers beyond 2006.

"We have two drivers under contract for 2006: Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa. After that we don't have anybody signed yet," Colajanni said. Raikkonen denied he was contemplating a move, but did not definitively rule out switching teams.

"Why should I be thinking about a move? I am in a situation most Formula One drivers can only dream about," the Finnish driver said in a statement released by McLaren.

"I'm winning races, I'm still challenging for the world championships, the team is fantastic and I have a great relationship with everybody here _ so why would I want to even consider changing?" asked Raikkonen.

The newspaper said its story came from an "absolutely reliable source."

Schumacher won five straight championships for Ferrari but the car has not competed well this year with Renault and McLaren-Mercedes dominating, reports the AP.

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis said: "Our team is locked in an intense battle for the 2005 Formula One drivers and constructors world championship and everybody within the organisation, including our drivers, are and will continue to be 100 percent focused on this.

"Loyalty from both the team and its drivers have always been a given in our environment. This has been clearly demonstrated by Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard who were with team for nine years.

"We anticipate long-term relationships with both Kimi, who is in his fourth season with us, and Juan Pablo (Montoya).

"Consequently the team is not in discussuion with any other driver, including Michael Schumacher about a possible team McLaren Mercedes race seat."

World champion Schumacher will be joined at Ferrari by Brazilian Felipe Massa next season after Rubens Barrichello departs to BAR. Ferrari have suffered a disappointing season in 2005.

Bild said first talks about a possible move for Raikkonen to Ferrari took place last year. Parties began discussing an advance contract in February and March, and agreed it in May, it said, informs Reuters.

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