McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has urged the rival Williams squad to do all it can to snare former world champion Kimi Raikkonen for the 2012 F1 season, claiming that the Finn is under-rated in a lot of areas.
Whitmarsh has personal experience of dealing with Raikkonen, having helped run the Finn during his McLaren career, but was an observer only when he finally claimed the world title with Ferrari a year after leaving Woking. Two years on, and Raikkonen was out of F1 altogether, apparently disenchanted with what was required of him outside the cockpit.
For the past two seasons, the fun-loving Finn has been competing in the World Rally Championship but, having not achieved the highs that were expected of him, is being tipped to return to F1 with Williams, if the Grove team can put together a mutually-agreeable financial package. Signing Raikkonen would likely leave veteran Rubens Barrichello out in the cold, but Whitmarsh suggests that the Finn would be an asset to Sir Frank Williams' operation.
"Try and sign him," he urged, "I wouldn't ordinarily presume to advise Sir Frank who he should sign, but I think it would be exciting if he [got Raikkonen]. We all know he is quick, [but] I think people under-estimate how intelligent he can be. I hope that he is hungry, [as] I am sure he hasn't lost the capability to thrill us in F1. I think it would be fantastic for F1."
Williams shareholder Christian Wolff has confirmed that talks have taken with Raikkonen, but admits that there is currently some difference over financial demands. Williams, however, remained ambiguous on the topic of his 2012 line-up when pressed on the situation with Barrichello, team-mate Pastor Maldonado and the possibility of one or other being usurped by the Finn.
"I'm sure Pastor will be in one car, Rubens maybe," he mused, "We haven't really made up our minds what we want to do before we talk to Rubens. I knew this would come up [in the [press conference], but my view, as you might well expect, goes as follows: [there is] a lot of supposition and I cannot make any comment about supposition. Sorry to be so unhelpful."
While Williams admitted to not being a fan or rallying, and therefore unable to comment on Raikkonen's current exploits, another former employer of the Finn echoed the belief that the Finn would be a potent weapon if he returned in the right car.
"Of course, I would not give any advice to Frank, [as] he has long experience - a lot longer than me - [but], for sure, I know Kimi very well," Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali noted, "He is very talented, very strong and, if he wants to come back, he has something that he wants to show to everyone about him, about the fact that he was the last driver to win the world championship with us, and he will want to show he is still one of the strongest."
Those likely to face Raikkonen on track have already endorsed his possible return, with Michael Schumacher and fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen already welcoming the possibility that he could line-up with Williams in 2012 [see story here