Speculation that 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen will be competing in the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2010 is 'more than a rumour', Citroën Total World Rally Team chief Olivier Quesnel has confessed – as sources hint that a deal has now already been done.
Ever since it was officially confirmed that he was being shown the door by Ferrari in favour of Fernando Alonso – and the possibility of a return to former employers McLaren-Mercedes foundered due to a failure to agree financial terms – it has been widely expected that Raikkonen will be going rallying next year, either as an F1 sabbatical or else as a full-time career switch.
Whilst the Finn's name has also been linked to the second seat at Mercedes Grand Prix alongside ex-Williams ace Nico Rosberg in 2010, he himself has denied any such talk – as many now anticipate a move to Citroën as part of the multiple title-winning French manufacturer's junior team. Quesnel has done little to dampen those suggestions.
“It is not signed and I have never even spoken with Raikkonen on the telephone,” the Frenchman told Radio-France
, “but it is more than a rumour; it is a real possibility.”
He went on to describe Raikkonen's WRC debut in an S2000-spec FIAT Abarth Grande Punto on his home event, Rally Finland during the mid-summer F1 break, as 'amazing' – and he waxed lyrical about the 30-year-old's talent behind the wheel, describing him as an 'incredible driver' who 'did not become [F1] world champion by accident'.
Quesnel also confirmed that should Raikkonen indeed join Citroën's WRC attack in 2010, it would be as a member of the marque's 'junior team' rather than alongside reigning six-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb in the factory effort – but he would still have the same full-spec C4 at his disposal.
What's more, Finnish broadcaster MTV3
reports that the 18-time grand prix-winner has already come to a deal with Citroën – but his spokesman Riku Kuvaja insisted that 'no decisions one way or another' have been taken and that 'all options remain on the table'.
Earlier this week, Ford WRC star Mikko Hirvonen warned Raikkonen against making the move on a short-term basis, reasoning that 'preparing to drive with pace notes is a difficult case for him and almost all the rallies will be unknown to Kimi in advance' and contending that 'it's difficult to imagine that he could succeed, at least in his first season' [see separate story – click here