Eric Boullier has warned former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen that if he is serious about wanting to make a grand prix comeback in 2011 with Renault, then he will need to be 'super-motivated to race with us' – and not just eager for a handsome pay cheque.
It was confirmed earlier this month that 2007 title-winner Raikkonen had been in contact with Renault regarding the available berth alongside Robert Kubica next season – along, it seems, with virtually half of the current grid. Under new management in the guise of Gérard Lopez's Luxembourg-based investment firm Genii Capital, Renault has rebounded in fine style in F1 2010, following the well-documented trials and tribulations of last year that very nearly saw the French manufacturer walk away from the sport entirely.
That has made the Enstone-based outfit an attractive proposition for 2011, and with the team unsure whether or not to hang onto young Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov – torn between the 26-year-old's flashes of form but frustrating inconsistency during his maiden campaign of top flight competition to-date, not forgetting his potential for bringing in lucrative sponsorship streams from his homeland – a whole host of other drivers have been linked with taking his place.
The most high-profile of those candidates is Raikkonen – but Renault F1 team principal Boullier insists that if the Finn does want to come on-board, then it must be for the right reasons and not merely for financial gain once his substantial Ferrari pay-off expires.
“Yes, Kimi has been in contact with us, but we're not yet in discussion,” the Frenchman told Auto Hebdo
magazine. “It could be a scenario if we decide not to keep Vitaly. What is certain is that if we decide to go back into talks with Raikkonen, I want to meet him to really assess the true motivation for his return. Whether it's Kimi Raikkonen or someone else, I want him to be super-motivated to race with us. Whether he's Finnish, Chinese or French-Swiss, he has to prove he is motivated.”
The allusion to different nationalities is believed to relate to two other hopefuls for the seat, current Renault F1 reserve Ho-Pin Tung and the Oxfordshire-concern's former driver Romain Grosjean, who was replaced by Petrov for 2010. Both men are now looked after by Lopez's Gravity Sport Management organisation.
Others understood to be eyeing Petrov's cockpit are Force India F1 ace Adrian Sutil and Scuderia Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari – but Raikkonen's erstwhile colleagues have confessed that they would welcome the 18-time grand prix-winner's return.
“Personally, I'd be glad if Kimi came back – he is so different and talented,” remarked Peter Sauber, the man who first gave the Espoo native his big break in F1 back in 2001, in an interview with Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
, whilst former team-mate Nick Heidfeld added: “He would be able to come back without the slightest problem. I have not been driving for a long time, and yet I feel I have come back with exactly the same feeling.”
Kubica, however, begs to differ, saying of his fellow rallying aficionado: “If I was in Kimi's position, I might stay in rallying – but I'm not saying that because I want him to stay there.”