Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has made MotoGP champ Valentino Rossi a “serious” offer to test drive Michael Schumacher's F-2003 GA. But is it just a ruse to lure the Italian to Ducati next year?

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has made MotoGP champ Valentino Rossi a “serious” offer to test drive Michael Schumacher's F-2003 GA. Di Montezemolo said it would be "a serious test, not a joke", but many interpret the move as an attempt by Marlboro to lure the three-times MotoGP champion to Ducati next season.

Earlier this year, quoted Rossi as saying that it was his “dream” to ride for Ducati: “Of course, it is a dream to ride with Ducati. All Italians want to ride for Ducati. And the bike’s fast.”

At the time, the Italian said he would like to try F1 too. “F1 is still a dream. Maybe it's possible - I don't know what will happen in the future. I will stay in MotoGP for another two or three years. I'm quite young so maybe I have enough time. I don't know if it's possible, but maybe," he said.

Rossi, who clinched the 2003 MotoGP championship at Sepang on Sunday, is widely rumoured to be leaving Honda, with whom he's won all his premier-class titles, at the end of the season. While Ducati appeared the early season favourites to tempt Rossi from Honda’s grasp, given his desire to ride for an Italian team and their race winning Desmosedici V4, Yamaha has since emerged as favourites to clinch Valentino's signature.

But now comes the announcement of a Ferrari test offer - something Rossi wouldn't be able to accept if he stayed with Honda - since it has their own rival F1 team, while Yamaha is unlikely to agree as its sponsors won't want the cigarette brand getting what would be massive publicity.

Marlboro already has six-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher on its books at Ferrari, and signing Rossi at Ducati would give it the German's equivalent on two-wheels - while also bringing Rossi's fun oving and fan-friendly image to contrast with the ultra-professional, but arguably dull, Schumacher.

Meanwhile, new rumours suggest another major Ferrari sponsor, Vodaphone, may be behind the latest deal - raising the possibility of a Vodaphone Ducati team in 2004.

"If it is possible (to give Rossi a test) I think the effort would be well worth it," said Di Montezemolo. "But it has always been very difficult to pass from two to four wheels and it's only got harder.

“Today, F1 is sensationally different from the past, and has a frightening difficulty. But Valentino is a huge champion and is the symbol of a Italian motorsport," he added.

Ferrari has given previously given Max Biaggi an F1 test, while F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said on record that he'd love to have a character such as Rossi in his championship.

Englishman John Surtees was successful in making the switch from motorcycling to motor racing. The Londoner won seven world motorcycling championships before claiming the F1 world title with Ferrari in 1964.

Original article from Car