Lotus are hopeful that they can win a tug-of-war with Formula 1 champions Red Bull for Kimi Raikkonen’s services next season.
“Red Bull is chasing Kimi and we obviously want to keep Kimi,” Lotus team principal Eric Boullier told reporters at the British Grand Prix on Friday where Red Bull’s 2014 driver vacancy remained the hot topic.
Out of contract at the end of the year, Raikkonen has become a frontrunner to replace Mark Webber for 2014 now that Red Bull’s Australian has decided to move on to sportscar racing with Porsche.
“Kimi will decide what he wants to do and he will decide what is best for him,” continued Boullier. “He knows what he has with us. He can guess what he could get, [but] it’s attractive to go to Red Bull as well.
The Frenchman hoped that the relaxed atmosphere at Lotus, where Raikkonen is the clear number one driver, could convince the Finn to stay.
“Now we are just talking with him and he is seeking some understanding of where we [are going], of what we are building, because in terms of ownership we are new. I think so far he is happy with what he has, so we will see,” said Boullier.
“I think the environment he has with us suits him.”
Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion with Ferrari, made his F1 comeback with Lotus in 2012 after two years in rallying and started this season with a win in Australia.
Red Bull principal Christian Horner said that the winners of the last three world championships simply wanted the best candidate and that Raikkonen was one of them – along with Toro Rosso’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.
“We are fortunate that we have the pool of talented young drivers at Toro Rosso to draw upon and of course we will gauge what else is available in the market place,” he said.
“Of course Kimi Raikkonen is a driver you would be foolish to ignore.”
Horner said that Red Bull would take their time to make a decision and had little doubt that Red Bull would be Raikkonen’s most attractive option.
“Any competitive driver is going to want to be in the most competitive environment he can be in,” he said. “I guess that’s the same for Kimi as any driver.
“But we’re not just looking at Kimi Raikkonen. We have Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne who are true contenders for that seat.”
Horner said that Red Bull’s Swiss reserve driver Sebastien Buemi was “not a contender for a race seat.”
“Our choice is more focused on the current active F1 drivers,” he added.
Asked whether Red Bull wanted a driver to accommodate Vettel or one who could challenge and rival the 25-year-old German triple world champion, Horner was adamant that they wanted the best available.
“Sebastian wants to be challenged and pushed and from our perspective there are two championships,” he said. “You don’t win a constructors’ world championship with one driver. We want to field the most competitive lineup that we can.” (Reuters)
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