Kimi Raikkonen has emerged as a surprise contender to line up alongside Fernando Alonso at Ferrari next year, even though the Finn is closing in on a deal to remain at Lotus.
Ferrari is considering its driver options for 2013, with the team well aware it needs a team-mate to Alonso who can help contribute significantly to its constructors' championship ambitions.
Felipe Massa has not yet delivered strong enough form this year to guarantee his seat, which has left Ferrari evaluating whether to hope his current upswing in form will continue into 2013 or whether it needs to look at other options.
A number of young drivers are on Ferrari's radar - with Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean all on the short-list of candidates for the drive.
However, Ferrari sources insist that the team has not seen enough from any of those drivers to be sure that they will be a definite step forward over Massa - which has resulted in Raikkonen emerging as a dark horse contender.
Although Raikkonen was dropped by Ferrari at the end of 2009, Ferrari sources suggest that senior figures inside the team believe he would be the perfect fit for next year – because of his speed, availability and likelihood that he would not cause any political problems.
However, the biggest stumbling block at any deal happening is believed to be the strained relationship between Raikkonen and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who parted their previous working partnership on far from good terms.
Insiders suggest that di Montezemolo is not convinced about the Raikkonen route – while the driver himself has said in private that he too would be reluctant to work with his former boss again.
Ferrari will have to make a final call on Raikkonen soon if it is to have any hope of doing a deal, because he is getting close to confirming another season with Lotus.
AUTOSPORT understands that Raikkonen has already held technical meetings about the 2013 car at the Lotus factory, and there is every indication from him and the team that they intend to carry on together for at least one more year.
Raikkonen's team-mate Grosjean is out of contract at the end of this year too, but his current strong form for Lotus makes it a no brainer for it to keep the Frenchman for another season.