Braccio di ferro per Kimi –28/06/2013
Lotus thinks its atmosphere can tempt Kimi Raikkonen to stay
Lotus boss Eric Boullier believes that Kimi Raikkonen’s final decision on whether to stay with his current team or move to Red Bull will not just be based on the speed of the car.
With Raikkonen emerging as one of the leading contenders to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014, Boullier accepts that there is no guarantee he will keep hold of his star driver for next year.
But although Red Bull currently has the better track record and faster car, Boullier thinks the quality of the machinery is not the only factor that matters to his Finnish driver.
"Red Bull is chasing Kimi and we want to keep Kimi," explained Boullier. "Kimi will decide what he wants to do, and he will decide what is best for him.
"He knows what he has with us; he can guess what he has with Red Bull. Now we are talking with him and he is seeking some understanding of where we are going, in terms of building with the new ownership. He is happy with what he has, so we will see."
He added: "The environment must suit him. We will keep improving the team performance and we will keep going this way to match Red Bull’s team performance as much as possible.
"Being part of the environment to build it around yourself is the nicest challenge for a driver."
Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes, however, that Raikkonen’s decision will come down simply to which team offers him the best chance of victory.
"At the end of the day it will be equipment at their disposal," he explained. "Any drivers will want the most competitive environment at their disposal, but we are not just looking at Kimi Raikkonen.
"We have Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, who are true contenders for the seat. We need to take a bit of time to look at all the options that are available."
Red Bull: Kimi Raikkonen not certainty as Mark Webber’s replacement
Red Bull’s priority is to find the fastest driver it can as replacement for Mark Webber, as it denied that Kimi Raikkonen is an automatic choice.
Although Lotus driver Raikkonen has been widely touted as the leading contender to line up alongside Sebastian Vettel, team principal Christian Horner said that Red Bull was open-minded and ready to bide its time on a decision.
He says his outfit needs time to judge whether Raikkonen is a better prospect than Toro Rosso duo Jean-Eric Verge and Daniel Ricciardo.
"We want a fast driver. We want to fill the best two cars that we can next year," said Horner when asked what Red Bull was looking for.
"We are in a fortunate position where there are quite a few drivers who would like to drive a Red Bull car, and we have also got two very talented young drivers that we have been developing at Toro Rosso that we have a lot of information on. So we don’t need to rush into a decision."
Raikkonen said earlier on Thursday that it would be tough for him to decide whether to stay at Lotus or join Red Bull if an offer was made, while Horner admitted that there were some risks attached to signing a superstar like the 2007 world champion.
"There are risks whoever you sign," he said. "You just try to make the most informed decision you can, and we are in a fortunate position that we have got two very exciting young prospects, and we are attractive to other drivers as well.
"Our decision will be based on merit and wanting to field the most competitive team that we can."
VETTEL OPINION WILL BE CONSIDERED
Horner also made it clear that Vettel would be consulted on a decision, even if he would not have the final say on who his team-mate will be.
"For sure Sebastian will be kept in the loop in terms of what our choices of driver are, and his opinion has a value as well," he said.
"He is out there racing some of these guys; and sometimes he sees things we don’t."