Kimi Raikkonen has never been accused of wearing his heart on his sleeve, and his recent remarks, in the wake of his ouster from Ferrari in favor of Fernando Alonso, are certainly not out of character.
As quoted in a recent piece in The Guardian, Raikkonen said, regarding his plans for for 2010 and beyond, “Maybe I will race, maybe not. My only aim, if I am going to race next year, is to have a car that can win the championship. Otherwise there is no point.”
Classic Kimi. Ho-hum.
According to current paddock gossip, Kimi will make a return to the McLaren fold next year, to replace the lackluster Heikki Kovalainen. Kimi’s response? “I don’t have any bad things to say about them. We always had a good relationship. It’s a chance, but so far I have not thought much about these things.”
While Kimi might be bored by the whole turn of events, he’s still considered a reasonably hot property on the drivers’ market. McLaren have coyly acknowledged their interest, and in Friday’s press conference in Japan, Toyota honcho John Howett admitted that Toyota had been in contact with Raikonnen’s manager about the possibility of a drive next year.
Howett also revealed an interest in retaining Robert Kubica, and certainly a Kimi-Kubica lineup would make for an interesting combination. However, this seems unlikely, as Kubica now seems set to move to Renault.
As for Kimi, while Toyota might be willing to outbid McLaren for his services, it’s difficult to see him going anywhere besides McLaren. For one thing, he would be well acclimated to the environment there. He would know the engineers and mechanics, and their operational methods. For another, I think his character has always been better suited to the corporate formality that McLaren is known for, rather than the familial passion that is the guiding spirit at Ferrari.
In fact, Raikkonen has always seemed to be an odd choice for Ferrari. Granted, when he was selected as Michael Schumacher’s replacement, he was considred to be one of the two best choices among the hot young drivers on the grid, the other being Fernando Alonso. Alonso was unavailable (he’d already committed to a switch to McLaren), so Kimi was almost the choice by default.
But Ferrari (and Italy) like their drivers to show passion, a love of the team and the sport. It’s no wonder that the cool, Gallic Alain Prost didn’t get on well there nearly 20 years ago, and it’s not surprising that Kimi has fallen out of favor more recently. Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali has indicated that Alonso’s most appealing attributes as a driver included his natural leadership abilities and his personality. In this respect, he’s everything that Raikkonen is not: communicative, charismatic and proactive. In short, he is the ideal candidate to try to fill the very large set of driving boots that Michael Schumacher vacated at the end of 2006.
Image by Vince Pettit, licensed through Creative Commons.