Grapevine: Straw Poll: Friday at Monza

Autosport's Formula One editor reports on the daily mood-swing of the F1 press corp, straight from the Monza media centre

Grapevine: Straw Poll: Friday at Monza

With the weather conditions rapidly deteriorating at Monza on Friday, thoughts were turning to just how spectacular a genuinely wet Italian Grand Prix could really be.

And, judging by the amount of errors made during practice - before the session was finally red-flagged with five minutes to go - a wet race would certainly not lack for excitement.

This was not simply another wet practice session: The weather conditions deteriorated through the morning so badly that thoughts of doomsday began to spread across the press room.

Such was the volume of the precipitation that the teams were forced to do their best King Canute impressions, and armed with low-tech brooms they frantically swept away the water that had begun to flood the garages.

Spare a thought, too, for BBC Radio Five Live's crew, who were forced to abandon their booth early as water began to seep through the ceiling and into the electrical equipment.

Beyond the weather, though, the feeling was that it had so far been a pretty quiet grand prix weekend.

But then, the lightning struck - and not in a meteorological way. Ferrari unobtrusively confirmed they have extended world champion Kimi Raikkonen's contract by one year to the end of the 2010 season.

This was a huge vote of confidence for a driver who had been rumoured to be demotivated and contemplating retirement. And, after finally getting on top of his qualifying problems at Spa despite a costly error, Raikkonen has clearly bounced back and is here to stay.

This created an interesting atmosphere in the press room, which went from damp squib to something nearer fever pitch.

Many had reported empirically that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was a cast-iron certainty for Ferrari in place of Kimi in 2010. Some had been equally adamant that the Finnish world champion was on the verge of either hanging up his helmet or being edged out the door.

Yet there was also an amazing number of people who insisted today the announcement came as no surprise to them - even those who were utterly convinced a few days earlier that the driver market was not going to shake out with a Raikkonen/Felipe Massa combination at Ferrari in 2010.

Instantly, thoughts turned to the repercussions of the Raikkonen deal.

So intense was the speculation that Alonso was now about to be confirmed at BMW/Honda/Renault/Osella/Wolf/Vanwall (delete as you see fit) that it overshadowed news of the FIA setting a date for the hearing of McLaren's appeal against Lewis Hamilton's Belgian Grand Prix penalty.

After being the talk of Monza yesterday, as the news cycle moved on there were fresher things to worry about. The appeal could wait until September 22.

Back in the world of the driver merry-go-round, for what felt like the ten-thousandth time this season, Alonso was very clear in saying he wouldn't rush his decision.

The Spaniard reiterated that staying at Renault was his number one option. He certainly seems happy at the team that gave him a car good enough to win back-to-back world championships, but clearly he has a very important decision to make.

Opinion varied massively as to what Alonso's choice should be. The sleeping giant that is Ross Brawn's Honda... Renault, the only team to have halted the Ferrari/McLaren steamrollers in the past decade... BMW Sauber, the team most likely...

All are attractive options one way or another, and all with some very obvious pitfalls.

Add to the mix the curve-ball of the new regulations for 2009 - which could have a seismic effect on the way the grid lines up for the Australian Grand Prix - and you can see why it's taking Alonso a while.

His Renault return wasn't confirmed until December last year. Few in the press office expect it to take so long this time.

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