As the New Year approaches, it's easy to let our thoughts turn to the new racing season ahead. New seasons bring equipment and regulations changes, new venues and a few spiffed up old ones added to the schedule; manufacturers getting into new forms of motorsports; and some calling it quits. New seasons also mean personnel changes in most series.

Nowhere is this more closely followed than in the racing soap opera that is Formula 1. With astronomical budgets and such a small group of teams, it's easy to get caught up in the comings and goings of every driver. The biggest news from last year was the retirement of seven-time champion Michael Schummacher from Ferrari and the repeat driver's title for Renault's Fernando Alonso. It was a compelling title fight down to the last couple of races, but in the end the young and hugely talented Spaniard prevailed.

Whether cause or effect, the departure of MS from Ferrari left a huge void in the team, one that will hopefully be filled by the signing of the super talented Finn, Kimi Raikkonen. Admiring his brilliance while piloting the somewhat inferior McLaren the last few years, Ferrari made the decision to nab him and make him their new number one. For that privilege, Ferrari will be spending the tidy sum of $1 MILLION a week for calendar year 2007. OK, that's a slight exaggeration. According to Swiss newspaper Blick, the driver's salary for '07 will be $51m. That, folks, is reported to be $16 million more than Alonso will get to fill Raikkonen's vacated seat at McLaren. Not too bad for the fun-loving Finn.

[Source: Belfast Telegraph]

In related news, the newspaper also reported that Jenson Button will earn $16 million to drive for Honda, and that Michael's brother Ralf Schumacher will get a similar amount to return to Toyota. Renault's former number 2, Giancarlo Fisichella and Ferrari's sophomore Felipe Massa will each earn $10m next year. A lot of money for some proven talent, but even at the bottom of the scale, drivers such as Robert Kubica (BMW), GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Heikki Kovalainen (Renault) will be making about $2.8m each. It should be a very entertaining season for the fans and the drivers.

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