Former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen has re-iterated that he is only interested in remaining on the grand prix grid in 2010 should he have at his disposal a competitive car – as he reflected that he has 'fond memories' of his three years at Ferrari.
Raikkonen will make way next season for fellow title-winner Fernando Alonso at Maranello, and the Finn has been linked with McLaren-Mercedes, Renault and Red Bull Racing – and also with Toyota prior to the Japanese manufacturer's withdrawal announcement last week.
However, RBR team principal Christian Horner has categorically asserted that there is no room at the Milton Keynes inn for the 30-year-old, Renault's future in the top flight is looking somewhat tenuous and Raikkonen himself has stated that the only one of his potential suitors of genuine attraction to him is McLaren, with whom he and his management team remain unable to agree on financial terms [see separate story – click here
]. Otherwise, he affirms, he will simply walk away – and rallying has been mooted as a likely destination.
“It's hard to believe that I have been in Formula 1 for nine years already,” he told his official website. “I am very motivated to win races and a championship again, and will only remain in F1 if I can race for a team that can give me a car to fight at the front. Let's wait and see what happens.
“I can do whatever I want, but like I said before, I haven't made my decision about what I want to do yet. Basically, I have a few different options, and we will see what is the best one overall and then I'll make my decision.”
Raikkonen joined Ferrari for the 2007 campaign, and sped to title glory in his first season with the celebrated Scuderia
, pinching the crown away right at the last from under the noses of McLaren rivals Alonso and Lewis Hamilton – his likely team-mate in 2010 should he return to Woking, for whom he competed from 2002 to 2006, triumphing 13 times along the way. Whilst 2009 fell some way short of expectations – characterised by a distinctly low-key farewell in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale earlier this month – the Espoo native insisted that he had no regrets.
“My three years with Ferrari are over,” the 18-time grand prix-winner mused. “I had an opportunity to fulfil one of my dreams, and now I'm looking for new challenges. Now everybody can focus on next year, like Ferrari has been doing already for many weeks.
“Is it going to be different? At least there are not so many changes next year; no refuelling and smaller front tyres are the main things. At the start of the race the cars will feel very difficult to drive with so much fuel on-board, so preserving the tyres will play a part. Qualifying is now old days where we do not use fuel, so that will be more fun too.
“I leave Ferrari with very fond memories, and say 'ciao' to everyone at Maranello. I won the drivers' world championship and helped the team to two constructors' championships in three years. I've made many friends at Ferrari, and we had a nice time together.
“This year did not go according to plan, but that's life. The package was not very competitive yet we still finished in fourth place in the constructors' championship, only one point from third. We struggled a lot with the car, but still we managed to get some good results – the highlight being the victory at Spa. At least the team showed we could tackle the problems we had at the beginning of the season.
“It was not a great finish to the season and we knew before we went [to Abu Dhabi] that it would be very difficult to score any points. There are many corners there and we lacked overall downforce and grip. The car did not ride the curbs very well, so that added to the problems. We started eleventh and finished 12th in the race – and that says it all.”