Kimi Raikkonen has been offered a drive by the Toyota Formula 1 team for 2010 and beyond, but apparently the Finn has turned it down. According to a report by the Reuters news service, Toytota refused to meet Raikkonen’s salary demand, which is thought to be in the neighborhood of 25 million euros per year.
Said John Howett, Toyota’s motorsport president, “We don’t play too many games. We put on the table what we can afford and what we think is a serious offer in the current market. I think genuinely we could work well with him, give him a car that’s quick.”
Toyota have been reluctant to commit to a driver lineup for 2010, and according to paddock gossip they’ve decided that their general performance level is being hampered by lack of a tier one driver. While both Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock, the current Toyota pilots, are considered competent, neither one of them would make anyone’s A-list. One wonders about the wisdom of chasing Raikkonen, however. While he’s still capable of brilliant drives, his motivation appears to wane if he doesn’t have a clear target withing striking distance. If the 2010 Toytota weren’t reasonably quick, one could see Kimi becoming bored with the whole enterprise rather quickly.
All of that seems moot now, however, since the Finn has priced himself out of Toyota’s league. That’s aassuming that Kimi had ever taken the offer seriously in the first place. Kimi has maintained that while he would like to continue racing in Formula 1, he would only do so if he could find a slot with a competitive team. The Toyota Formula 1 team has yet to win a single race, in their eight years as a team. It seems unlikely that they’ll morph into a title contender by next March.
My hunch is that Raikkonen was never really interested in joining Toyota, but he decided he’d pitch a curve ball over the plate to see if Toyota would take a swing at it. They didn’t. Other rumors have linked him with McLaren (the most likely choice), and Red Bull (less likely, as it would mean shifting Mark Webber to Toro Rosso, which he would undoubtedly resist). Another option not being mentioned in the press is Renault. The French team have only confirmed Robert Kubica for next year. Their current number two, Romain Grosjean (the replacement for the disgraced Nelson Piquet, Jr) has not set the world alight with his performances, and his seat is thought to be under threat. How Kubica would feel about pairing with Raikkonen is anyone’s guess. Both drivers are known for uttering two words to everyone else’s ten, so the combination would likely make for some quiet technical debriefs.
Image by Vince Pettit, licensed through Creative Commons.