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Toyota to make late play for Raikkonen?

1 January 1901

Despite the festive season not being littered with news and announcements, the Formula One rumour mill continues to grind, albeit a bit more slowly than usual.

This time, however, it has thrown out a real gem, with Toyota apparently expressing an interest in securing the services of Kimi Raikkonen when Fernando Alonso completes his move to McLaren in 2007.

Although the Woking team has yet to confirm which of its current drivers will be leaving to make way for the Spanish world champion in twelve months' time, the sensible money remains on Raikkonen having already signed a deal to join - or more likely replace - Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. However, the rumour mill suggests that the wrong Schumacher, as well as the wrong team, may have been taken for granted in the 'story so far.

According to various sources, headed by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, it could be Ralf Schumacher that is under threat from Raikkonen in 2007, with Toyota apparently keen to secure a bigger name to spearhead its assault on the world title. Again, neither Schumacher Jr or team-mate Jarno Trulli have been publicly singled out for the axe at the end of next season, but it was the Italian who performed marginally better in Toyota's most successful season to date, in 2005.

According to the reports, Toyota team boss Tsutomo Tomita has offered a five-year €100million deal to tempt the 26-year old Raikkonen away from alleged suitor Ferrari, with whom the Finn has been linked for most of the past year. Toyota now has reportedly the largest budget in F1, so paying Raikkonen's salary should not present a problem, but its image as merely an improving midfield runner may pose more of a obstacle in attracting the Finn to Cologne.


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