As the 2014 Formula 1 ‘silly season’ revs up in the Barcelona paddock, the man hogging headlines is Kimi Raikkonen, many believe the Finn’s rumoured move to Red Bull for next season might already be agreed.
It would be the culmination of a fascinating period in the 2007 world champion’s career.
When Ferrari ousted him after a poor 2009, most pundits thought Raikkonen had lost interest in Formula 1. He spent two years in world rallying, and even tried his hand at Nascar.
“The last year with Ferrari I don’t know whether his heart wasn’t in it or whether he just wasn’t happy,” Jenson Button told the Guardian in Barcelona.
“Now, he seems like the driver who won the world championship.”
Laid-back Lotus was the ideal team to host the 33-year-old’s comeback last year, and he has even won races and is now a dark hose for the 2013 title.
But a return to a top team for the former McLaren and Ferrari driver now seems inevitable.
“You keep asking me the same question,” Raikkonen told reporters on Friday when asked about the Red Bull rumours, “but I have nothing to tell.”
Understandably, having lost highly-rated technical director James Allison, Lotus is desperate to keep its top driver on board.
“If we give Kimi a winning car,” team boss Eric Boullier is quoted by German news agency DPA, “he has no reason to change.”
Red Bull, however, could give Raikkonen a perfect reason, as the reigning world champions consider pairing the ‘iceman’ with his friend Sebastian Vettel.
Christian Horner denied Vettel, who shares a barely communicative relationship with Mark Webber, will have the final say. (GMM)
“To say, ‘this one, yes’ and, ‘this one, no’ was never Sebastian’s style, to dictate,” team boss Horner told Formula 1’s official website.
“He is a sporting guy and has never pressured the team into doing things for his own benefit.”