Friday, December 18, 2009

Raikkonen might be WRC or bust

The 2007 World Champion and former Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen who made a switch to race in the World Rally Championship in 2010 with aims at a possible return to F1 in 2011 says not so fast. Raikkonen himself says there is a chance his WRC switch could actually be permanent. In an exclusive interview with this week's AUTOSPORT magazine, Raikkonen admits his long-term future was totally open.

"I don't have any contract with F1 or anything else, so I have no idea what will happen; I have both options, to stay in rallying or try to come back to F1. I want to see how it goes, and then decide. I'm not in a hurry to decide. If it goes well, then I could keep doing it. There are many different scenarios. Right now it's just for this year, both with Red Bull and with Citroen." Red Bull and Citroen is where rally legend and 6 time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb calls home, although Raikkonen will be with the junior team in 2010.

There were plenty of people that thought Raikkonen was a lock to be in F1 for 2010, but after failed negoiations with McLaren and Brawn (now Mercedes GP)the issue seemed around money. However Raikkonen refutes this, "I could have signed with them [McLaren] if I'd wanted to do, but in the end it wasn't 100% what I wanted. It was not really so much about money; it was all the other things. It's not that I couldn't have gone there but, like I said, I have no reason to do something with a contract that I'm not happy with."

"Yeah, for sure there is something that if I raced with another team, I get a bit less [money]. And there was no point to get paid less if I race with somebody. It was a complicated situation, but in the end that wasn't the issue, the money side, although everybody thinks so. It wasn't what I wanted."

For several years the enigmatic Raikkonen had swirls of rumor and implication that a move to the WRC or even retirement was something on his mind after he signed his Ferrari contract. I think it was a pretty well known that Raikkonen did not want to stay in Formula One 'forever' so many fans do not find this move to the WRC shocking and will not find that he may stay there any more surprising.

If he stay in the WRC, the next logical questions are what is his legacy in F1; and what can he achieve in the WRC? In terms of his legacy I have always felt that for all of his talent, Raikkonen probably only used 80% of it during his F1 career. He liked racing and wanted to do things on his own terms and was never married to F1 and all its nuance. If he was, in my opinion he could have won at least 4 titles by now. Moreover, there always seemed to be an issue around the work of car development that followed him from McLaren and into Ferrari. Whether it was a lack of motivation or he had marginal skills in this area is now for the history books and internet fan sites.

As for his WRC career, again the man is talented and a natural behind the wheel of a car. He impressed on his WRC debut at the Rally Finland receiving much praise. If he stays in the WRC, I think he is capable of winning rallies in 2011 and a title by 2013. In any event, I wish the Finn luck.


ChiliN. said...

I am somewhat less optimistic about Kimi's chances in WRC. With the level of experience he has, I think it will be phenomenal if he can reach a podium in 2010. However, I do believe that his natural talent behind the wheel will be enough to take points on a consistent basis, and the fact that only the few and privileged get to drive in top teams will make things a lot easier for him.

Even though I will miss his presence in F1, it will be exciting to see how well an F1 driver can cope in a WRC car. I'm just hoping he can keep it on the road for a change!

Pete DaSilva said...

I have more hope for Kimi in the WRC. I think Rally drivers do not get the credit they deserve for being very good drivers, but I actually think Kimi is that good naturally to compete.

Another natural driver is St├ęphane Sarrazin who made the switch to rallying in 2004-06 after his open wheel days and is a very respected sportscar driver.

I expect Kimi to do well in the tarmac rallies as Sarrazin did. Not to mention there was a time that Loeb was considered a tarmac specialist. If you consider full or partial tarmac rallies (in which there are 5, 3 full) he stands to make an impact quickly with aims to the future if he stays.