Ferrari have told Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher that he can stay for as long as he wants
Renault's Fernando Alonso, the young Spaniard who has taken the Championship by storm with three wins in a row, has yet to sweep them off their feet however.
"I hope that Michael will want to stay in Formula One for many, many years," Ferrari team boss Jean Todt said after Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix. "As long as Michael wants to drive he will be able to drive for Ferrari.
"Alonso is among the most talented young drivers, he is not the first on top of our list," he added when asked if the Spaniard might one day take Schumacher's place.
Todt did not say who was and his previous comments suggest McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen would be their main target should Schumacher decide to hang up his helmet.
Schumacher, 36, has a contract to the end of next year but the seven-times champion said at Imola that he had talked privately to Todt about continuing beyond that.
Renault confirmed at the weekend that Alonso, managed by his team boss Flavio Briatore, had extended his contract to the end of 2006.
Raikkonen took pole position at Imola, McLaren's first since last July, and was pulling away steadily from Alonso until his car's driveshaft went.
Alonso, the 23-year-old who could become the youngest Formula One champion, then fended off the charging Schumacher to take Renault's fourth win in four races.
"He is a very good driver," said Todt. "But if you analyse the race from the beginning, there was one guy who was steadily going away. Unfortunately for him he had a reliability problem but otherwise he seemed to be very strong.
"Alonso did a great race, he had no problem. He managed to stay in front doing a good job. But again, overtaking is very difficult (at Imola)," he said.
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