Record-breaking multiple World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb – who this year added an incredible seventh consecutive drivers' crown to his extraordinary career CV – has conceded that the sole opportunity for him to join the grand prix grid has now been and gone and will likely not come again.
Just over twelve months ago, the F1 paddock was abuzz with speculation that off the back of an eye-catching test outing for Red Bull
Racing at Barcelona a year earlier, 'junior' operation Scuderia Toro Rosso
was lining up to parachute Loeb into one of its two cockpits for that season's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
finale, a race that came after the conclusion of the 2009 World Rally Championship campaign and around a circuit that was new to all of the drivers.
However, following a preparatory GP2 Series test, the plan foundered when governing body the FIA refused to grant the Frenchman a super-licence on the basis that he had not conducted enough prior circuit racing, and subsequent contact with the still-born USF1 outfit similarly came to nought.
Speaking at the 2010 Race of Champions end-of-season spectacular in Düsseldorf at the weekend, Loeb reflected that the moment to switch disciplines has now passed and that he stopped seriously pursuing the prospect once the Toro Rosso
chance had been extinguished.
“It's not a possibility,” stressed the 62-time rally-winner. “It was just an idea from Red Bull
last year, and finally we couldn't get to the end of the project. Now it's over. If I have the opportunity to drive a car just for fun at a test, for sure I will do it – but I don't think I will do any races.”
Behind Loeb's rationale is his observation of how former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen
has struggled to get to grips with life in rallying this year, the Finn tallying just 25 points, five top ten finishes from twelve starts and a best result of fifth place following his transition from single-seaters.
“Like you see for Kimi also, it's hard work to get the experience and for sure the other way would be the same,” mused the man who claimed Race of Champions individual glory in 2003 and 2005, and led his country to Nations' Cup honours alongside Jean Alesi in 2004. “When you see the young drivers coming into F1, they are 20-years-old and I am 36, so maybe I have to think of something else now.”