Niki Lauda is the latest F1 figure to claim that Red Bull should target Kimi Raikkonen as its replacement for Mark Webber next season.
Although the Australian has yet to decide whether or not he wants to leave RBR, the fall-out from 'Multi21' in Malaysia and rumours that he may be in talks to join Porsche's new LMP sportscar programme have naturally sparked speculation about a potential vacancy – with the rejuvenated Raikkonen's name being the one most often linked to it.
Both Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and racing advisor Helmut Marko have made no secret of their admiration for Raikkonen's return to F1, although Mateschitz insists that Webber will be given due consideration for next year, and Lauda has now added his voice to those suggesting the Finn as the ideal partner to Sebastian Vettel in 2014.
“He is sensational, a cool guy, and absolutely on the level of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton,” the Austrian told Bild
, “Kimi is definitely a title contender and, if I was Red Bull and I wanted to change something with the drivers, then I would definitely go for Kimi. He is the best driver on the market by far.”
Raikkonen, meanwhile, continues to claim that he does not know how long his interest in driving F1 cars will continue, but current team principal Eric Boullier admits that it may be hard to prevent the Finn from jumping at the chance to join the reigning world champions.
“I have no contract for next year that much is true, but, further than that, I don't want to discuss the matter, ”Raikkonen told the official F1 website,“ I want to do well this season and everything else will fall into place.
“I haven't thought about all that yet. I feel good here but, yes, there are many things that are undecided and there is still a long way to go this season, so let's see how things unfold. We will see pretty significant changes when teams switch to their 2014 car development, and then it will be interesting to see what is going on.”