2010’s star studied driver line-up is the strongest F1 has had since the 1980's. However, one man missing from the current field is Kimi Raikkonen , who left F1 last season to try his hand at rallying.
There have been a number of people asking about the possibility of Raikkonen returning to the sport in 2011 and, should he return, 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, his personal enjoyment is one of the critical factors. If Raikkonen isn’t enjoying what he is doing, he isn’t interested or content. Raikkonen was renowned for disliking F1 off the track.
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, in 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.
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 fifth 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 has 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.
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.
Ferrari have been very impressed with Fernando Alonso, and he 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 an option that may be worth taking a look at. The team has surprised many after its 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.
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.
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.
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.