Renault team principal Eric Boullier says that the team is 'flattered' that Kimi Raikkonen has expressed an interest in securing a drive for the 2011 F1 season – although he admits that any talk that a deal to sign the Finn is premature.
Raikkonen is looking at Renault as a possible route back onto the F1 grid if he elects to bring an end to his WRC adventure after just one season, with the Regie
being the most competitive option left on the grid for the new campaign.
However, while pleased to see that the work that has gone on within the Enstone-based team has been noticed by drivers looking for a seat, Boullier insisted that any possible deal would be dependent on Raikkonen showing he was serious about making a comeback.
“It shows that the work we've done this season is noticed and that we are considered a challenger for the championship in the future,” Boullier told F1.com
when asked if Raikkonen's interest was flattering. “Regarding Kimi, I would have to speak personally with him first, look him in the eyes to see if I see enough motivation there for him to return to Formula One. It doesn't make sense to hire somebody - even a former world champion - if you cannot be sure that his motivation is still one hundred percent. Why should you invest in somebody who leaves you guessing?”
While Raikkonen has expressed an interest in Renault, current driver Vitaly Petrov could yet retain his drive alongside Robert Kubica after a season where the Russian has shown glimpses of his potential – albeit alongside a series of rookie errors.
With four races remaining, Boullier said it was important for Petrov to show that he is worthy of a second year with the team and insisted that it would be performance that would dictate if he was retained and not the commercial benefits he brings from the Eastern European market.
“I know that a Russian driver would be appreciated and Russia holds a huge potential for all companies present in Formula One,” Boullier continued. “However, for us the performance of a driver is still the first criteria - and then the passport. Performance clearly wins over marketing potential because if a driver doesn't deliver then the marketing potential is also limited. You must never put the cart before the horse, or at least we don't.
“Vitaly has to show us in the four remaining races that he is the man we can hand over our second cockpit to in 2011 to follow our self-defined goal. If he fails to convince us he will not drive our car. If he satisfies us we will keep him.”