For all of Kimi Raikkonen's fans hoping the 2007 F1 World Champion will be absent from the grand prix grid for just a single year, his new employer's words will provide little comfort – as Olivier Quesnel suggested the Finn's World Rally Championship (WRC) switch is far from merely a stop-gap measure.
Upon confirming that he intended to take a sabbatical from the top flight following a breakdown in negotiations with McLaren-Mercedes, Raikkonen made clear that the likely intention would be to return to F1 in 2011 – quite possibly, his manager Steve Robertson let it be known, with Red Bull Racing.
However, there are some in the paddock surmising that the 18-time grand prix-winner is now gone for good after just nine seasons at the highest level – and Quesnel, boss of the Citroën Total World Rally Team for whose 'junior' division Raikkonen will compete in the WRC next year alongside former Junior World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier [see separate story – click here
], has hinted that he hopes the change of discipline will become a full-time one.
“We are not asking for the impossible for a first season,” the Frenchman told Auto Hebdo
, “but it is clear that if he progresses and shows the right level, then he could slot into the first team [in 2011].”
Quesnel added that should Raikkonen not enjoy rallying or achieve the success he expects there, 'maybe he returns to F1'.