The 2014 driver silly season has upped another gear and taken yet another shock twist, with Bild newspaper claiming that Kimi Raikkonen, already wanted by Lotus next year and also in the running to switch to Red Bull, is now also a contender to drive a Ferrari in 2014.
Raikkonen, who drove for the great Italian marque for three years and even won the title in 2007, left Ferrari one year early at the end of 2009 when the team replaced him with Fernando Alonso.
Alonso, however, although under contract through 2016, has been linked with a shock move to Red Bull, while Brazilian Felipe Massa’s deal ends at the end of the current season.
Bild correspondents Nicola Pohl and Helmut Uhl report that Ferrari “has made the Finn an offer”.
They claim the offer, “more lucrative” than what is being promised by Red Bull, was made to the 33-year-old on the Thursday before the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Bild says that Red Bull’s offer is a $15 million retainer, performance bonuses, and sponsorship of his motocross team.
The Raikkonen rumour could tie in with reports of a developing rift between Alonso and Ferrari, after president Luca di Montezemolo “tweaked his ear” just after the Spaniard made disparaging comments in Hungary. A spokesman has denied talk of a rift.
“The president is 100 per cent with Alonso,” a Ferrari spokesman told Manuel Franco, the correspondent for Spanish sports newspaper AS.
“Montezemolo is the first one to support the call of our driver to improve, as soon as possible, the competitiveness of the car,” he added.
In the wake of reports linking Raikkonen to Ferrari, a team spokesman told news agency DPA the team “has no interest in the driver market right now”.
“For all those who may have a short memory: just a year ago everyone came with a list of drivers who could replace Felipe [Massa],” the spokesman added.
Raikkonen’s decision, whichever way it pans out, will impact the ‘silly season’ which already has Nico Hulkenberg moving to Lotus, and teenager Sergey Sirotkin earmarked for a Sauber seat in 2014.
Daniel Ricciardo is then most likely to be promoted to Red Bull and Antonio Felix da Costa most likely to get his grand prix debut with Toro Rosso next year, with Carlos Sainz Junior waiting in the wings.
The final word (for now) on the saga goes to world champion Vettel, who must surely have at least some input as to who his teammate will be.
When asked to pick between Raikkonen or Alonso by the BBC he replied;
“I’d prefer Kimi. I need to be careful now, … nothing against Fernando, I really respect him a lot as a driver. But I respect Kimi on track, off track, because he has always been very straight with me. From that point of view it would be a bit easier.” (GMM)
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