Raikkonen returning to F1 looks unlikely

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) and Sebastien Loeb (FRA) dressed as gladiators. World Rally Championship, Rd3, Jordan Rally Day One, Dead Sea, Amman, Jordan, 1 April 2010.

Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastien Loeb dressed as gladiators to promote Rally Turkey

May.24 (Daniel Chalmers) 2010’s star studied driver line-up is the strongest F1 has had since the 1980s. However one man missing from the current field is Kimi Raikkonen , who left F1 last season to try his hand at rallying.

Kimi has a massive, passionate and vocal fan base

Kimi has a massive and passionate fan base

Clearly from reading the Facebook posts on the YallaF1 fan page, Kimi has a very strong and dedicated fanbase, and is very much missed from the sport. There have been a number of people asking about the possibility of Raikkonen returning to the sport in 2011 and with whom.

Raikkonen has insisted that he won’t make any decisions until the second half of the season. He is keeping his options open for the time being.

When it comes to deciding whether to continue in rallying, comeback to F1 or do something completely different enjoyment is one of the critical factors. If Raikkonen isn’t enjoying what he is doing he isn’t interested nor is he happy. Raikkonen was renowned for disliking F1 off the track.

FIA World Rally Championship, Rd 4. April 15 - 18, 2010 Rally of Turkey, Pendik, Istanbul, Turkey. Day 1. Friday, April 16, 2010 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) on stage 8. DIGITAL IMAGE

Kimi gets airborne in his Citroen WRC

Raikkonen told the Turun Sanomat newspaper: “If the F1 world could go back 20 years, it would be the same as rallying now. It (rallying) is still professional but in just a bit more of a relaxed style,”

Another crucial factor is that if Kimi were to come back to F1 he would only want a competitive car, which he could compete for the championship. Fighting for scraps simply doesn’t motivate him.

He told the official F1 site back in February: “I will only return in 2011 if I can drive a competitive car. I do not want to race just to make up the numbers.”

The same applies to the option of continuing with rallying. If Raikkonen makes progress and consistently gets good results, he will feel encouraged to persevere with it .

Looking at all the evidence, it has to be said that the prospects of Raikkonen returning to F1 seem rather low.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Citroen C4 WRC before stage 9. World Rally Championship, Rd3, Jordan Rally Day Two, Dead Sea, Amman, Jordan, 2 April 2010.

Kimi recovered from a tough start to his WRC career

Firstly after a difficult start to his WRC career, Kimi has made good progress lately. He finished in the points in the Jordan rally, followed by a spectacular drive in the Turkish rally to finish 5th in only his fourth outing.

If he can continue in this sort of form, and he is enjoying himself, he will very likely remain in the WRC, and potentially progress to the main Citroen team (currently he is driving in the junior team).

Secondly, if Kimi were to decide to race in F1 again who would he drive for based on the fact he only wants a competitive car.

Out of the current top four teams, Red Bull had been touted as the most realistic option. Raikkonen’s rally team citroen has Red Bull backing so there is a natural link there. Furthermore, Mark Webber’s contract is up at the end at of the season.

Red Bull's Mark Webber is on a hot streak

Red Bull's Mark Webber is on a hot streak

Unfortunately for Raikkonen and his fans, this door could soon be closed. After Webber’s masterful victories in Spain and Monaco it’s now more likely that Webber will renew his contract. Why would either party want to end their relationship? Red Bull are currently freakishly fast, and so is Webber himself.

Sebastien Vettel’s contract runs out at the end of next season. It would be absurd if Sebastien decided to break his contract a year early considering the current pace of his Red Bull.

This would mean no seat at Red Bull for Kimi. Is there anywhere else where Raikkonen could fit in?

McLaren seem extremely content with their new all British line-up so no room there.

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault with Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari. Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Valencia Spain, Friday 21 August 2009.

Kimi was replaced at Ferrari by Fernando Alonso

Ferrari have been very impressed with Fernando Alonso, and is the man they hope will deliver them success over the next few years. Whilst it’s true that Massa’s seat is under threat Robert Kubica would appear to be the most likely candidate to replace him.

At Mercedes there is perhaps an outside chance of a seat becoming free should Michael Schumacher decide to cut short his three year contract, but that’s quite unlikely.

Renault is perhaps an option that may be worth taking a look at. The team have surprised many after their season of turmoil in 2009. Should Kubica go to Ferrari then Renault will on the look out for another top line driver to fill his shoes. Or it might be that they keep Kubica and look to hire another top driver to replace Petrov.

Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren celebrates on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 22 May 2005. DIGITAL IMAGE

Kimi made his mark at McLaren pictured here winning the 2005 Monaco GP

The main stumbling block is that the Renault isn’t currently a race winning machine, and if that remains the same it would take Kimi some convincing that it could be in 2011.

There is also a third reason why the Finn is unlikely to return to F1 which is money. This was one of the main causes of Raikkonen failing to reach an agreement with McLaren to drive for them this season.

Raikkonen wanted to maintain his high salary level but without having to do a large amount of the PR work that he hated so much. This was a very unreasonable demand considering that this is a time of cost cutting and the recent resource restriction agreement, which FOTA (Formula one teams association) put into place last year.  Kimi priced himself out of the market.

If Kimi wants to have any chance of a return to F1 he has to be far more realistic when it comes to his salary demands.

Additionally, the cars Kimi would be driving in 2011 would be very different to the ones he drove at the end of 2009. All current F1 drivers will have had a chance to adapt to the current cars with large fuel tanks. Kimi would need time to adapt to that and it may be that his driving style wouldn’t suit the new regulations.

Post Race Press Conference (L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari; Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4-20 and Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota  Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary, 31 July 2005. DIGITAL IMAGE

Kimi replaced Michael Schumacher at ferrari

After seeing the difficulty Michael Schumacher has had during his comeback so far, teams may be put off by taking a punt on Raikkonen.

In conclusion, before the season started, it seemed there was a fair chance that a 2011 Kimi Raikkonen F1 return was a fair possibility.

However, over the last couple of months, it has been starting to gradually get less and less likely. Kimi has been starting to find his feet in the WRC and appears happier in his new home then he did in F1. As well, Red Bull will now be keener to renew Webber’s contract considering his recent form. Realistic options in F1 are running out.

Kimi may well continue to state that the door is still open.

However from the outside, it looks as if that Kimi is moving on from F1, and that in turn F1 is moving on from him.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari signs autographs for the fans at a Shell event. Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday 26 March 2009.

Kimi mobbed by adoring fans in Melbourne 2009

For Kimi fans hoping he returns, hope is not gone completely, but the chances are looking slim. The only way this writer can see Kimi back in F1 is if Webber makes a shock decision to move to Ferrari or Renault, but it would be an odd decision considering how quick Red Bull are at the moment, and how close he is to the Red Bull team. It’s hard to see this becoming a reality

There is perhaps also a half chance at Renault, or Mercedes should Schumacher opt to cut his three year contract short.

It’s more likely that Kimi will continue his rallying adventure in 2011, but of course in F1 you can never say never.

  • http://www.last.fm/group/Formula+1 Bec

    Kimi who :D

    I’d forgotten all about him.

  • Lisa

    Oh I wish he´d come back…I miss him so much there!

  • PitRat

    Kimi Who ? is a good answer

    but on the Kubica note, he will never go a play second fiddle to Alonso/ a good friend of his…

    Kubica is staying at Renault, and if he wants to change he will go to Mclaren no where else

    I think Webber will stay put if he doesnt get the title. if he does by any chance, he will hang his helmet and leave the sport on the best note he ever will be be able to.

  • Yvonne

    Poor Mark,even though his guys have expressed the will to renew his contract strongly after two victories in a row,RBR hasn’t done any move yet. SAD!!!

  • David

    He doesn’t want F1. It’s that simple. If he did, everything else would have mattered less. Kimi fans would just have to watch him rally. It’s a great sport too.

  • Arthur

    Kimi should realize that sponsors are the ones that keeps his salary high. If he asks for a higher salary, he must embrace F1 style. A good driver with a bad accounting…

    Who needs him in F1 anyway… We already have a lot of stars here…