Renault is evaluating the possibility of replacing inconsistent rookie Vitaly Petrov with former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen in 2011, sources suggest – with Force India ace Adrian Sutil allegedly also in the running should the Finn prove unattainable.
Raikkonen is currently competing in his maiden campaign in the World Rally Championship with the Citroën Junior Team, having been released by Ferrari last year and having proven unable to agree terms with either former employers McLaren-Mercedes or reigning double world champions Mercedes Grand Prix.
Opinion is divided as to whether the 18-time grand prix-winner has gone for good or is sticking to his original plan of merely taking a sabbatical from the top flight to indulge his second love of rallying, but the recent confirmation that Red Bull Racing will retain both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber next year looked to have closed the door. Red Bull was previously viewed by many as his most likely destination should he return, as the Citroën Junior Team is similarly sponsored by the Austrian energy drink.
Now, however, authoritative Italian magazine Autosprint
has reported that Renault is interested in bringing Raikkonen back in 2011 – and in fact the 30-year-old was previously linked with the Enstone-based outfit last September [see separate story – click here
]. It is claimed that the Eric Boullier-led concern is not altogether convinced by Petrov, the first Russian ever to compete in F1 but a driver who has generally struggled in qualifying and proven erratic – if extremely rapid on occasion – come the races.
To-date, the man dubbed the 'Vyborg Rocket' has notched up a mere six points from the opening eight grands prix of the 2010 campaign, compared to the 73 tallied by team-mate Robert Kubica. The 25-year-old's sole points-scoring finish to-date has been seventh place in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. It is understood that Renault will only renew Petrov's contract should he score 25 per cent of the points total of Kubica; he currently sits at 8.2 per cent.