Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen has dropped hints that the new optional £40 million budget cap set for introduction in 2010 could be the final straw that causes him to hang up his grand prix helmet – contending that 'this is not F1 anymore'.
The Finn has not triumphed in the top flight now in more than a year, with his last win coming in the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Lining up just 16th for the 2009 edition around the Circuit de Catalunya as the result of a monumental error by Ferrari in the first phase of qualifying, Raikkonen has little-to-no hope of getting back on the victory trail again this weekend.
Indeed, for much of last season there were persistent question marks about the 17-time grand prix-winner's motivation and hunger for success in the wake of his 2007 drivers' crown, with many surmising that he simply no longer possessed the necessary desire to apply himself sufficiently to compete up at the sharp end at the very pinnacle of international motor racing.
Though he has always denied that is the case, Raikkonen's contract with the Scuderia
expires at the end of next year – at which stage, if not sooner, Fernando Alonso is widely expected to take his place. Pictures of him changed back into his civvies and eating an ice-cream whilst the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang was on-hold earlier this year as race directors debated the wisdom of re-starting it in the treacherous conditions only served to further fuel that speculation.
Now, however, it seems Raikkonen may have some question marks of his own – and he has suggested that if the controversial and much-denigrated budget cap is indeed brought into force, creating confusion with what many fear will effectively be a two-tier championship, he could just be heading for the exit door.
“This is not F1 anymore,” he told BBC Sport
. “That's why there is a question mark. We'll see what happens and how F1 is going – there are a lot of question marks and nobody seems to know what kind of rules we are going to get. I'm happy where I am now; I have a contract for next year, and then it's more-or-less my decision what I want to do. I will definitely finish my contract, but I'm not in a hurry so we'll wait and see.”
Raikkonen's team boss Luca di Montezemolo has been amongst the most vociferously outspoken against the radical cost-saving initiative – one that has been designed in an effort to entice new teams into the sport and reduce the risk of existing competitors pulling out on financial grounds in the present fragile economic climate. The Italian has described it as 'fundamentally unfair and perhaps even biased', claiming that it could end up penalising those competitors with larger budgets by way of affording their capped rivals disproportionate technical freedoms.
It is understood that the teams – in the guise of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) – are planning to boycott the deadline of 29 May by which they have to lodge their entries for the 2010 campaign, having already demanded 'urgent' talks with Max Mosley on the matter. The FIA President has contentiously asserted that 'the sport could survive without Ferrari' – its longest-serving and arguably most loyal entrant – and when asked if the Maranello-based outfit would continue in a cost-capped era, Raikkonen was non-committal.
“I don't know,” the 29-year-old replied. “There are a lot of questions and I'm not the guy to answer those. There needs to be a reasonable budget for everybody. It would be nice to get close racing – we are getting there now, but it still needs to improve – but it's hard to put the bigger and smaller teams on the same level as it's very difficult to make everybody happy.”