Fernando Alonso has a secret agreement to join Ferrari for four years from 2011, the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport reported yesterday.
The twice Formula One world champion has never hidden his desire to go to the Italian team and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo recently fuelled the speculation by refusing to rule out the Spaniard's future arrival.
The newspaper said the deal had several get-out clauses for both sides but added that Alonso could join Ferrari even earlier, in 2010, if 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen follows this year's disappointing season with another bad campaign.
By contrast, Alonso was in impressive form after returning to Renault following a difficult season at McLaren, despite not having a car competitive enough to challenge for the title.
The 27-year-old won two races, in Singapore and Japan, and finished fifth in the standings for Renault, with whom he won the 2005 and 2006 world championships.
Ferrari have Raikkonen and this year's title runner-up, Felipe Massa, under contract until the end of 2010, while Alonso's current deal with Renault also runs for two more seasons.
A Ferrari spokesman would not comment on the reports, apart from saying: "We can only repeat that we have two drivers signed to the end of 2010."
Meanwhile, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is reported to be interested in buying the former Honda team. It is understood that Slim, one of the richest men in the world with extensive telecommunication interests, is one of four bidders seeking to take over the team next season. Honda announced earlier in the month that they are pulling out of Formula One.