Spanish banking giant Santander is set to become a Ferrari sponsor in 2010, high level sources have told autosport.com.
In a move that would heighten speculation former world champion Fernando Alonso is on his way to the Maranello outfit, Santander is poised to switch teams after its current exclusive arrangement with McLaren comes to an end.
The company originally joined the Woking-based team at the start of 2007 as it intended to make the most of the team's capture of Alonso.
However, the former world champion had a troubled time at McLaren and quit them to join Renault for this season. The Spaniard and his team are sponsored by Dutch banking group ING.
Alonso is believed to be holding out for a Ferrari deal, and has been tipped as favourite to join the Italian squad in the near future.
However, news of the Santander move in 2010 will only increase suggestions that a deal is in the offing with the Spaniard. Santander would be unlikely to commit to the team without some hint about Alonso's future plans.
A Santander spokeswoman refused to comment on the speculation, but made it clear on Friday the company was committed with McLaren until the end of next year.
"We are not making any comments about this," she told autosport.com when asked about the Ferrari deal. "We have a contract with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes until the end of 2009."
Despite Santander's planned future switch to Ferrari, there is a chance that the company could also opt to maintain some link with McLaren from 2010.
Although McLaren lost Alonso, Santander has benefited greatly, especially in the United Kingdom, through its association with Lewis Hamilton. This has been bolstered by the company's title sponsorship of the British Grand Prix.