Four-time F1 World Champion Alain Prost has warned fellow title-winner Kimi Raikkonen that if he presses ahead with his intention to take a sabbatical from the top flight to go rallying for a year, he may find that there is no way back in again in 2011.
After talks with McLaren-Mercedes – with whom he competed at the highest level from 2002 to 2006, triumphing nine times along the way and arguably being unlucky to miss out on the laurels in 2003 and 2005 – broke down over Raikkonen's elevated financial demands, the Finn confirmed speculation that he would be taking a year away from the grand prix grid in 2010, most likely to go rallying and make his debut in the iconic, round-the-clock Le Mans 24 Hours [see separate story – click here
Left without a seat after Ferrari elected to replace him with Fernando Alonso, the 18-time grand prix-winner has rubbished suggestions that he could be Mercedes Grand Prix-bound next year – with Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug known to be a fan of Raikkonen's – but the 30-year-old's manager Steve Robertson has made noises about a possible move to Red Bull Racing in 2011, ostensibly in place of Sebastian Vettel, who it is rumoured will be heading to Brackley.
Prost himself took a sabbatical in 1992, before returning with Williams-Renault the following season to thoroughly dominate and clinch his fourth and final drivers' crown – but he fears Raikkonen does not have enough support inside the paddock to be able to confidently walk away and then just breeze back in again.
“He will try to go rallying, but he is a bit lazy, likes to party and drink a little,” the Frenchman told radio station Europe 1
. “When you take a year off you have to be extremely serious about it, preparing physically and mentally.
“He sometimes had difficulty working as a team. Some Ferrari people in particular didn't appreciate his remoteness from the engineers. He is a superb driver, but it may be difficult for him to get the people who are halfway down the middle about him to trust him again in 2011.”