Record-breaking five-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb will be free to make his Formula 1 debut in the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale should the occasion present itself, Citroën has revealed – as the French manufacturer officially acknowledged that it would not stand in the way of its talisman driver's desires.
Loeb has long expressed a wish to try his hand at an F1 race, having impressed during testing outings for both Red Bull Racing and Renault in recent years, and with the energy drinks company being a major sponsor of Citroën's World Rally Championship (WRC) effort, the link to Red Bull 'junior' outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso is an obvious one.
Having previously hinted that he would not impede Loeb's will provided an opportunity arose outside of
the WRC campaign – which the inaugural race around the Yas Marina street circuit will do – Citroën Total World Rally Team principal Olivier Quesnel has now underlined that the Alsacien is at liberty to do as he sees fit.
“I am not a Formula 1 boss, so I have no seat to offer Sébastien,” the Frenchman told news agency AFP
, “but if someone makes a proposal to Sébastien, Citroën Racing will authorise him for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since the rally season will be over at that date.”
However, though Loeb is known to have speculatively contacted newcomers USF1 regarding a potential 2010 opening at the North Carolina-based operation, and whilst Quesnel hinted that the 35-year-old may also be allowed to return to the Le Mans 24 Hours with Citroën's sister company Peugeot next year – having previously finished second outright for Pescarolo Sport in the legendary round-the-clock La Sarthe classic back in 2006 – the 52-time rally-winner's immediate future, it would appear, remains in the category that has brought him such outstanding success over the past seven years. Negotiations are currently underway to extend the French star's Citroën contract by a further two years.
“Both parties wish to remain married,” Quesnel affirmed. “I am not a gambling man, but I bet Loeb will still be a rally driver next year.”