Kimi Raikkonen is effectively a free agent to quit the World Rally Championship in favour of making a shock F1 return with Lotus Renault GP should he so desire, Citroën Sport director Olivier Quesnel has revealed – but he doubts the Finn will be tempted.
Following Robert Kubica's arm and leg-breaking, career-threatening accident on the Ronde di Andora Rally in Italy on Sunday, it seems the Pole will be out-of-action for the majority of the F1 2011 campaign, if not indeed its entirety. Raikkonen is set to compete under the 'Ice 1 Racing' banner in a privately-run Citroën DS3 this year – what will be his second season in the WRC – but he has recently been linked to a sensational grand prix comeback in Kubica's stead.
The 2007 world champion has always refused to fully close the door on the possibility of his one day rejoining F1 – even if he insists that he did not miss it much last year – and he was repeatedly mentioned in connection with Renault last summer, although that speculation ended acrimoniously when Raikkonen angrily accused the Enstone-based outfit of having taken advantage of his name for publicity purposes, revealing that he had 'never seriously considered' driving for the team [see separate story – click here
Quesnel concedes that whilst the Finn is therefore a legitimate target for Lotus Renault GP as it seeks a suitable stand-in for its star performer over the coming months, Eric Boullier will likely have his work cut out if he is to successfully persuade the 31-year-old to ditch rallying for F1.
“If he wants to leave, I couldn't say anything because he is a client,” he told RMC Sport
, when asked about the 18-time grand prix-winner. “He has rented a car from us and drives with his own sponsors.
“I suppose there may be considerable pressure from Bernie Ecclestone, the FIA and the whole world of F1 who want to see him come back because he is still an emblematic driver for the sport – [but] if he is taking 'phone calls, they would have to be very convincing to get him back there.”