In the most recent indication to date that McLaren are leaning towards signing Kimi Raikkonen to a new contract, team principal Martin Whitmarsh extolled the Finn’s virtues in an interview with the official Formula 1 website.
When asked point blank if Kimi Raikkonen would join McLaren in 2010, Whitmarsh was equivocal, saying, “We have not determined a driver line-up yet and we haven’t set a timetable for doing so. We now have clarity about Ferrari’s drivers and we know now that other drivers are available. We try and give Heikki every opportunity to do a good job, Heikki is a very committed driver and a lovely chap, and we would like him to get some good results over the rest of the season. We are focusing on that and are not announcing a driver line-up for the moment.”
Furthermore, Whitmarsh would not be pushed into giving a time line for the team’s final announcement.
However, when pressed to elaborate on a previous statement that Raikkonen would fit well within the McLaren corporate culture, Whitmarsh said, “Kimi is a fantastic driver, and I like him and know him well. He was with the team for five years. He is quick, he is committed and I think he probably would be very committed to beating Ferrari in the future – knowing him. All these are attractive things with Kimi. He is not political. He is absolutely straightforward – what you see is what you get with Kimi. And on top of that everyone knows that he is a winning driver. I think he has been underestimated technically. He is a very good racing driver and I think he would fit well in this team, if we choose to go down that route.”
Clearly, Whitmarsh doesn’t need to be sold on the idea of Kimi’s rejoining the team. And from Raikkonen’s perspective, if he’s set on being with a competitive ride next year, McLaren is the obvious choice. What are his alternatives? Renault? Toyota? Williams? No, it seems clear that for Kimi it’s either McLaren or nothing. What’s holding him back? My hunch is that the sticking point can be calibrated in euros, and once the team and Kimi’s manager find common ground (for Kimi’s wallet), we’ll see Kimi in silver livery again.
Image by Vince Pettit, licensed through Creative Commons.