Rumors of Robert Kubica’s switch to Mercedes to replace Michael Schumacher launched the silly season this year, and while Kubica eventually put the kibosh on such speculation by signing a two-year contract extension with the Regie, fresh stories have now surfaced that it might be Renault’s rookie team mate who is on the move.
Although Vitaly Petrov has received good marks on the whole in his firs season in F1, he’s been solidly outperformed by Kubica, the Pole having scored 83 of the team’s 89 championship points thus far this year. Petrov is clearly the number two on the team, and if the Renault began to enjoy performance gains that placed them in podium winning positions on a regular basis, it’s certain that Kubica would be the one finding himself in the post-race press conferences, and not Petrov.
Considering that constructors’ points translate into real money at season’s end, it’s only natural that Renault might be considering someone who could double their current points earning potential — someone, that is, who would likely perform on a par with Kubica. Considering that most of F1’s heavyweights are currently tied to their teams with multi-year contracts, it would make perfect sense that Renault might be sniffing around world rally fan boy Kimi Raikkonen as a possible replacement.
Raikkonen professed that he had tired of the world of F1 when he exited last year to try his hand at the WRC. While he’s been praised as showing promise, he hasn’t exactly set the WRC alight with his prowess. Such it generally the case in the contemporary racing world. Gone are the days when a driver such as Mario Andretti or Dan Gurney could hop from one formula to another and seem completely at home in whatever type of racing they had chosen for the moment.
It might well be that the Kimster will tire of his rally duties at the end of this year, and decide that, in the end, the politics and commercialism of Formula 1 are more tolerable than sliding around in muddy roads and barrel-rolling your tin top into the trees.
A Kubica-Raikkonen pairing would certainly be interesting, and it would make Renault the fifth squad on the grid with a super-team lineup, the others, of course, being Ferrari (Alonso-Massa), McLaren (Hamilton-Button), Mercedes (Schumacher-Rosberg) and Red Bull (Vettel-Webber). Given the right equipment, any one of these ten men would be capable of winning the championship.
Will Kimi give up the rutted roads of Finland’s outback to rejoin the F1 fray? The laconic Finn was present at last weekend’s Silverstone venue, and he was seen in conversation with Mercedes sporting honcho, Norbert Haug, which immediately fueled speculation that Mercedes was shopping for a replacement for the underperforming Michael Schumacher. But Haug later professed that he wasn’t trying to hire a replacement for Schumi, he was merely counseling and old friend (Raikkonen drove for McLaren during the Woking squad’s partnership with Merc), and was urging him to return to F1, a sport that in this era seems in dire need of more “characters.”
In other words, Haug seemed to be saying, We wouldn’t hire Kimi for Mercedes, but we think it wouldn’t be a bad idea if someone else hired him.