Former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen has asserted that 'the door is still open' for him to return to the top flight in 2011 should he so desire – as he revealed that he will take a decision on his future direction midway through the forthcoming campaign.
After being prematurely ejected by Ferrari to make way for Fernando Alonso in F1 2010, and after talks with former employers McLaren-Mercedes broke down over a failure to agree financial terms, Raikkonen instead pledged his immediate future to his second love of rallying, by concluding a deal to compete for the Citroën Junior Team behind the wheel of a Citroën C4 in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
Whilst some are convinced that grand prix racing has now sadly seen the last of the famously taciturn, enigmatic and mercurial Finn following an off-colour couple of seasons in 2008 and 2009 off the back of his sole drivers' crown in 2007, the man himself has always maintained that he could effectively breeze back into F1 any time he so chose [see separate story – click here
]. Red Bull Racing has been mooted as a potential destination for 2011, thanks to the 30-year-old's close links with the Austrian energy drink company, which is officially backing and funding his WRC switch.
“I've always had an interest in the WRC,” Raikkonen confessed in an interview with Italian magazine Autosprint
. “I was offered this great opportunity by Red Bull, so why not take it?
“The doors to F1 are still open. I've dedicated nine years of my life to it and have some excellent memories. I will take a decision regarding my future halfway through the year – whether to stay in rallying or return to racing in grands prix.”
“Kimi has made it clear that he only wants to go back to Formula 1 if he can drive a car that fights for wins and the championship,” the Espoo native's British manager Steve Robertson told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
“The best places in the driver market are allocated mid-season. At this stage it is impossible to know which direction Kimi will go in. It is clear that at the moment he is focused on his rally career.”
It has been pointed out that Raikkonen's compatriot and fellow F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen similarly announced that he was taking a 'sabbatical' from the sport at the end of 2001 – never to return.