Kimi Raikkonen will not
drive in F1 in 2010, his manager Steve Robertson has revealed – explaining that after talks with former team McLaren-Mercedes failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion, the Finn has elected to take a sabbatical from the sport ahead of a planned return in 2011, most likely with Red Bull Racing.
Robertson told Turun Sanomat
that the discussions with McLaren – for whom Raikkonen previously competed at the highest level from 2002 to 2006, triumphing in nine grands prix along the way and arguably being unlucky to miss out on the drivers' crown in 2003 and 2005 – had not resulted in a deal, with the discrepancy between what the 18-time grand prix-winner and his managers were demanding financially and what the Woking-based outfit was willing to pay ultimately proving to be too large a gap to be able to bridge.
The Englishman added that there are no talks ongoing with any other team, and Finnish broadcaster YLE TV
reports that 'The Iceman' is now in negotiations with multiple world champions Citroën regarding the 2010 World Rally Championship (WRC).
“The options for next season in Formula 1 were McLaren or nothing,” Robertson told the Finnish newspaper. “Kimi and McLaren could not reach an agreement, so he won't drive in F1 next year. The opportunity to return to grand prix competition for 2011 is there, when there will be more interesting places available. At the moment it looks like that could be Red Bull.
“Kimi is still bursting with enthusiasm to race – a sabbatical doesn't change anything in that respect. Moreover, it means that Kimi can find a drive where he can fight for victories and world championships. Next year [Raikkonen] will drive rallies and possibly the Le Mans 24 Hours, which both interests and excites him a lot. F1 will miss Kimi. He worked hard over the summer – doing things in a Ferrari that only the best drivers are capable of.”
Robertson's declaration – if true and not merely a bold bluff in a bid to apply more pressure on McLaren to bend to Raikkonen's financial requirements – suggests that the driver line-ups at McLaren and the new Mercedes Grand Prix outfit will be composed of Britons Lewis Hamilton and F1 2009 World Champion Jenson Button, and Germans Nico Rosberg and BMW-Sauber refugee Nick Heidfeld, though who will end up sitting where when the music finally stops remains to be seen...
Meanwhile, if Raikkonen does indeed plump for a sabbatical, he would not be the first world champion in the history of the top flight to do so. Alain Prost, for example, took a break from the sport after being fired by Ferrari in 1991, before returning with Williams-Renault to clinch his fourth title in 1993. Niki Lauda similarly opted for a hiatus, quitting in 1979 before rejoining the fray with McLaren in 1982 and lifting the laurels for the third time in 1984.
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