Kimi Raikkonen will make his World Rally Championship debut next month when he contests his home round of the series, Rally Finland.
The Ferrari Formula 1 driver has competed in three rallies earlier this year, but the ninth round of the WRC season will be his first time on gravel. The Finn, who won the F1 world championship with Ferrari in 2007, tested the Abarth Grande Punto for two days in central Finland earlier this week.
Raikkonen's co-driver will be Kaj Lindstrom, four-time world champion Tommi Makinen’s former co-driver. Makinen's own racing team will run the Abarth for Raikkonen.
Lindstrom admits the 29-year-old Raikkonen will face a difficult task when he starts his first WRC round.
"Rally Finland is not going to be easy for sure," said Lindstrom. "The rallies we have done so far have been smaller events, a three-day WRC round is much longer and more intense than those national events. And it doesn't just start with the rally, we have two days to go through the recce and make the notes. Kimi makes very good pace notes, but there will be pressure on for the recce."
Lindstrom added that Raikkonen’s lack of gravel experience will also make his task tougher next month.
"He has competed on snow and asphalt, but never gravel, but we have tested on gravel," said Lindstrom. "But one of the hardest things for Kimi will be the speed of this event. Rally Finland and the roads used are so fast, like nothing we have done before—that does take time. But, let's not forget, this guy is a pretty good driver! He's very talented and I'm sure he will cope fine."
In his rally debut, Raikkonen finished 13th in the Arctic Rally in January. He ran as high as seventh overall in the Vaakuna Rally, before depositing his Abarth off the road only to recover and finish 17th. His debut on asphalt came in the Rally della Marca in Italy in May, where he crashed out on the third stage.