Mercedes Grand Prix did
try to sign 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen for 2010, the Finn's manager has revealed – but the former Brawn GP outfit moved too late to secure his services, as he was already committed to a rallying switch.
Raikkonen will compete for the Citroën Junior World Rally Team in the World Rally Championship (WRC) next year, after being ejected from his Ferrari seat in favour of fellow title-winner Fernando Alonso. Subsequent negotiations regarding a possible return to former employers McLaren-Mercedes ultimately foundered over a failure to reach satisfactory financial terms.
There was also some talk of a move to Mercedes alongside Nico Rosberg and in place of McLaren-bound 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button, and the Stuttgart manufacturer's motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug did little to conceal his admiration for the 18-time grand prix-winner. It now appears that such speculation was not entirely idle.
“Mercedes wanted to have Kimi,” Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
, adding that 'The Iceman' had turned down other offers in F1 – ostensibly including one from recent departee Toyota – in favour of scratching his rallying itch, “but by this time he had already decided to go to the WRC. Kimi doesn't change his mind.”
As the Espoo native now prepares to make his Citroën bow on the Arctic Lapland Rally in January – a fortnight ahead of the start of the 2010 WRC campaign in Sweden [see separate story – click here
] – Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has corroborated that a concerted rallying effort was always on Raikkonen's agenda.
“Kimi was speaking about it with me already years ago,” the Italian told Autosprint
magazine. “He always wanted to do rallies at world championship level.”