Lotus won’t break the bank to keep Kimi Raikkonen for F1 2014
Lotus says there is no point in busting the bank to keep Kimi Raikkonen next year, as talks intensify to finalise the Finn’s Formula 1 future.
Raikkonen is considering his options for 2014, but hopes of a switch to Red Bull appear to be over after his manager Steve Robertson revealed on Monday that talks had collapsed.
While Lotus is eager to keep Raikkonen on board, and the former champion has expressed privately that he wants to stay there, the situation depends on the Enstone-based outfit proving that it has the financial and technical package in place to maintain its strong form.
The money situation is a key factor, with Raikkonen having had issues in the past with wage payments being delayed.
That background means there is no guarantee Raikkonen will commit to a fresh deal with Lotus, with the team admitting that there will be no point in it over-stretching its budget just to keep him.
Speaking before it emerged that the Red Bull discussions were over, team principal Eric Boullier said he would only be happy to keep Raikkonen if the circumstance made sense for both driver and team.
"We haven’t finished the story with Kimi, so we want to keep going," he told AUTOSPORT.
"Kimi is a good figure for the team. Obviously he is a very good driver, and everyone knows how good he is.
"He’s also helping us in terms of awareness to get us into the right place of where we want to be. I think he is a natural fit for the team and the team naturally fits around him.
"I would like to keep him, to be honest, but I want to keep him with the right conditions.
"If we can’t afford him because of finances, then I don’t want to have him because he will be a pain in the arse – and it will difficult to build something on this.
"But if we can have him, then I would like to keep him."
Lotus is still finalising a deal with investment partner Infinity Racing that it hopes will provide it with exactly the kind of financial stability that Raikkonen is seeking.
Analysis: could Kimi Raikkonen rejoin Ferrari for F1 2014?
With Kimi Raikkonen no longer in the Red Bull running, his best alternative outside Lotus if a deal cannot be agreed appears to be Ferrari.
The Italian team, which Raikkonen drove for from 2007-09, winning the title in his first season, could have a seat available if it chooses to replace Felipe Massa in 2014.
Raikkonen’s manager Steve Robertson has rubbished talk that an agreement is already in place for him to return to Maranello, but admitted to AUTOSPORT that Ferrari was on Raikkonen’s radar as a consideration.
"It’s an option," said Robertson. "My job is to talk to all the teams that have available seats, and that is what I will be doing."
Ferrari, however, is not yet devoting any effort to worrying about its 2014 driver line-up, because its priority is to rediscover the on-track form that Fernando Alonso will need if he is to win the championship.
Sources suggest that Ferrari’s senior management will only be ready to consider its driver options after the Italian Grand Prix – by which time it should have a clearer picture of its competitiveness and Massa’s form.
That means Raikkonen may have to wait for a few more weeks before he can make progress on his Formula 1 future.
Although Raikkonen’s departure from Ferrari to make way for Alonso was not on the best of terms, it is understood there is no underlying reason that would make it impossible for him to return – and that Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo would accept it if he was the best driver available.
However, there is also no shortage of other available options – including Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta.
RECAP: RAIKKONEN AT FERRARI
Michael Schumacher was edged towards the F1 exit to allow Raikkonen to join Ferrari in 2007, as the Finn left McLaren after a promising but ultimately frustrating five seasons of showing great pace but missing out on titles.
Raikkonen rectified that in his first season at Ferrari, winning on his debut in red in Melbourne.
He then put a mid-year lull behind him to surge through and beat McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Alonso to the crown amid the backdrop of the McLaren/Ferrari spygate scandal.
But Raikkonen ended up playing second fiddle to team-mate Felipe Massa in 2008 and could only win once in ’09 as a furious Ferrari was caught off-guard by rivals’ interpretation of diffuser rules. He left for the World Rally Championship at the end of the year.
RAIKKONEN’S FERRARI STATS
2007 2008 2009 Wins 6 2 1 Poles 3 2 0 Champ pos 1st 3rd 6th Points 110 75 48
Kimi Raikkonen’s Red Bull talks end, Daniel Ricciardo set for seat
Daniel Ricciardo is now set to secure the second Red Bull Formula 1 seat for 2014, with talks between the team and Kimi Raikkonen having come to an end.
Amid growing speculation that Red Bull had decided to pick Ricciardo, Raikkonen’s manager Steve Robertson told AUTOSPORT on Monday that the Finn was no longer a contender to line-up alongside Sebastian Vettel next year.
Robertson confirmed the news, which first appeared in Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, that the former world champion’s discussions with Red Bull had come to an end.
"It’s true," said Robertson. "Kimi will not be driving for Red Bull in 2014. We held some talks, but a deal will not be happening."
Red Bull had openly admitted that its choice for Mark Webber’s replacement was between Raikkonen and Ricciardo – despite being made aware in Hungary that Fernando Alonso could be available too.
Raikkonen had always been happy to stay at Lotus for 2014, but the prospect of racing for reigning champion Red Bull was given serious consideration.
The Finn’s representatives opened negotiations with Red Bull, as the team weighed up whether to opt for Raikkonen’s experience and guaranteed speed, or put its faith in a youngster like Ricciardo as a long term prospect.
Although Red Bull is insisting that it is not in a position yet to announce its 2014 drivers, Robertson’s revelation that Raikkonen is now out of the running points to a Ricciardo deal being a formality.
An announcement about Red Bull’s plans could be made as soon as this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, although the team may opt to wait for the following race in Italy.
Should Ricciardo be confirmed, he will move up to Red Bull’s main team after two full seasons with its junior Toro Rosso outfit. He also competed in 11 races for HRT in 2011.
RAIKKONEN HAS OTHER ‘OPTIONS’
The collapse of the Red Bull talks means that Raikkonen’s best option to remain in competitive machinery in 2014 is to finalise a fresh deal with Lotus.
But such a deal is not a formality, amid questions about the financial health of the team, with Raikkonen having been paid late on some occasions.
Robertson said that Lotus was just one possibility for Raikkonen as talks continued with a number of teams.
"We are pretty confident that Kimi will be in F1 next year," he explained. "There are options – and that is plural – out there and I will continue to talk to teams. I am hopeful we will sort something out in the not too distant future."
Vanzini a SkySport24:
Kimi Raikkonen ‘wants Ferrari return’ claims Eddie Jordan
A deal for the Finn to return to the team for whom he won the 2007 title may be announced as soon as next month’s Italian Grand Prix, Jordan said.
Ferrari said the claim was "not true" and that no decision had yet been made.
Jordan added that Ricciardo, 24, had already signed to partner Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next season.
Ricciardo’s promotion from junior team Toro Rosso is to be announced at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Jordan said.
A Red Bull spokeswoman said: "We don’t have anything to announce at present but will advise when we do."
A Ferrari spokesman said the Italian team were concentrating on improving their car to boost Fernando Alonso’s title challenge.
He added: "This is the exact same scenario as last year – with not only Kimi but a long list of other drivers allegedly going to Ferrari.
"At the moment our priority is produce the car for Fernando and Felipe (Massa) and a decision on the 2014 line-up will be made at the appropriate moment, which is not right now."
On Monday, Raikkonen’s manager Steve Robertson told BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson that the 20-time grand prix winner, 33, would not be driving for Red Bull next year.
Robertson said: "Talks broke down. We haven’t spoken for a little while and it’s clear Kimi won’t be driving for Red Bull in 2014.
"Kimi’s a free agent. He still has options out there.
"There’s a lot of things happening behind the scenes and I’m pretty confident he will be in F1 next year."
Asked specifically whether Ferrari were an option, he said: "Until they confirm their seats, my job is to speak to all the teams and see what’s available."
Jordan said Raikkonen had made a return to Red Bull his first priority but when talks with the world champions broke down, he turned his attention to Ferrari.
He could also stay with current team Lotus for a third season.
Alonso is under contract until the end of 2016, but Ferrari are considering replacing Massa, who has had an inconsistent season.
BBC Sport understands that senior figures within the Ferrari team want Massa out and are keen for Raikkonen to return but that Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo is not keen on the idea.
Signing Raikkonen would be an admission they had made a mistake when they chose to end his contract a year early at the end of 2009 and pay him not to drive for them in 2010, when Alonso joined.
They preferred Massa as the Spaniard’s partner, despite the Brazilian at the time recovering from a fractured skull sustained in an accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Although Raikkonen won the title for Ferrari in 2007, Massa outscored him during the first of their two years together as team-mates, and was doing so again in 2009 at the time of his injury.
World champions Red Bull had made it clear they were choosing between Raikkonen and Ricciardo for the seat that has been made vacant for next season following Mark Webber’s decision to leave F1 to drive for Porsche in sportscar racing.
Raikkonen was a known quantity and would be a choice they could guarantee would at least match the contribution Webber made to three consecutive constructors’ world titles since 2010.
But Ricciardo’s promotion will be a vindication for the Red Bull young driver programme, from which so far only Vettel has graduated to the senior team.
The 24-year-old is also likely to be a malleable choice who will play a support role for Vettel without the friction that developed between the German and Webber and which may well have emerged had Raikkonen, a former world champion, joined the team.
It remains to be seen whether Ricciardo has the ability to cope with the step up to the highest level of F1, and the pressure that brings.
His best result for Toro Rosso is a seventh place, although he has three times qualified sixth.
Kimi Raikkonen’s 2012 Formula 1 season in quotes
Kimi Raikkonen’s Formula 1 comeback was one of the biggest stories of the 2012 season.
He finished a remarkable third in the world championship and even flirted with a title tilt at times, winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to cap a remarkable year.
While the Finn is famous for being monosyllabic, he still came out with plenty of memorable comments over the course of the season.
Kimi Raikkonen: 2012 in quotes
"There has always been talk about the motivation, but the people who write it don’t even know me. There’s always shit going on and I don’t mind if people want to write it. What can I do? I would have stopped if I felt that I didn’t have the motivation."
Telling AUTOSPORT pre-season that he has no problems with motivation
"I feel comfortable here which helps me to focus on racing; I guess that’s why people seem to think I’m a different person, but I’m just as focused and motivated as before."
Free to express himself at Lotus after the first two races of the year
"If you asked me before the start of the season whether I would be happy with podiums I would have said yes, but now I’ve had some good results, I want more."
Wanting wins mid-season
"I have no reason to say I wouldn’t try. I’m not here just to drive around."
Trying to win the world championship
"People always say there’s something special about me and Spa. I like the circuit but I wouldn’t put my money on myself this year or any other year, even though I’ve won there before. It’s not like I’m much better there than anyone else!"
Downplaying his Spa prowess despite his four Belgian Grand Prix wins
"He kept coming left more and more. I tried to go further left but I had nowhere to go."
Explaining the clash with Fernando Alonso at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix
"I would rather be out of second or third place so I don’t have to go to the prizegiving."
Hoping that he wouldn’t have to go to the FIA prize gala… something he ultimately did have to do!
"Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing."
Asking for peace over the radio while leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
"Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes. I’m doing it all the time."
Insisting that he didn’t need reminding to keep his tyres warm during the safety car period in Abu Dhabi
"I’m happy, but there’s nothing to jump around about."
Celebrating his first grand prix win since Belgium 2009 in Abu Dhabi
"Where I went off, you can get back on the track by going through the support race pitlane, but you have to go through a gate. I know this as I did the same thing in 2001 and the gate was open that year. Somebody closed it this time. Next year, I’ll make sure it’s open again."
Getting lost while trying to rejoin the track during the Brazilian Grand Prix
Kimi Räikkönen never doubted Lotus’s 2012 F1 title credentials
Kimi Raikkonen never had doubts Lotus would bounce back from its troubled 2011 campaign – as he insists the team has what it takes to gun for the title.
Ahead of what is expected to be a full-on victory bid for Raikkonen and Lotus at the Belgian Grand Prix, the former champion says his Enstone outfit has strengths that can help it overcome bigger budget rivals like McLaren and Ferrari.
Speaking exclusively to AUTOSPORT about why he was so keen to sign for Lotus after its difficult time last year, Raikkonen said: "There have been years when I’ve been in top teams and we’ve had a pretty bad year, and then the next year has been completely different.
"It’s still one of the biggest teams; they’re based in the same place, they have more or less all the tools to make the fastest car and the best car.
"It’s not maybe on the level of McLaren or Ferrari or Mercedes as for how many people we have, but they have the knowledge and they have the will to make a good car and push hard."
Raikkonen believes the error in pursuing the front-exhaust solution in 2011 that derailed its campaign actually disguised how good Lotus was – and also helped deliver lessons that have helped its performance this year.
"Once they made the decision to have a completely different car to the others, there was no way they could have come back from that decision. So they looked worse than they actually were because the decision was made and unfortunately it wasn’t right.
"But I think they learned a lot from that, so I wasn’t really worried about how they were doing.
"You always take a gamble to come back and sometimes you choose the right team, sometimes not, that’s life. I’ve been very happy with how things have gone and the people are great and I enjoy it."
Raikkonen also thinks it is too early to start considering his plans for next year – either for himself or the team.
The Finn is expected to sign a fresh deal with Lotus, despite speculation linking him with Ferrari, after an encouraging return to F1 with the Enstone-based team this year.
But although Lotus has grown in strength all season – and should be able to carry that momentum in to 2013 – Raikkonen says he is keeping grounded about future ambitions.
"We have to look at this year first, and I want to do as well as we can at every race," he said.
"You can do well in one year, but we’ve seen even in the biggest teams that they can have a hard time the next year. You’d think we should only get better and better but you never know.
"It’s not easy to make a fast car and sometimes the small details can either go your way or go against you.
"Usually the big teams, if they are not starting well [they can recover] – we’ve seen Ferrari this year, they have improved and they are the best team right now.
"We always wish to continue next year but it’s way too early to say what will happen. We’re putting our efforts into this year and try to improve in the second half."
Räikkönen looking to build upon early form across second half of 2012 season
Kimi Raikkonen says it is a case of ‘good, but could do better’ when assessing his performance in the first half of his comeback season on the eve of the ninth round of this year’s campaign at Silverstone.
The 2007 world champion, who has finished on the podium three times since he came back to Formula 1 following a two-year spell in the WRC, says that while he is pleased with the results he has achieved so far with Lotus, he is also frustrated by the knowledge that he could have done even better.
"You always prefer to be higher up and if you would have told me before the season that I would be on the podium a few times and I had this many points I probably would say that yes that’s great," he said.
"But then of course you get there and you know that with certain things we could have done better and we would probably have had better results so then you are always a bit disappointed.
"But no I am still happy and as a team we are in a pretty good position, but still we could have done better, so it is just the fact that we haven’t achieved what we probably should have achieved."
Raikkonen added that he is still working towards a better feeling in the E20 and admitted that disrupted race weekends are hindering him from achieving that goal.
"If you make a small error somewhere or have a small issue at a certain point of the weekend then it can easily cost you a lot of time," he said. "It looks like a small thing but it might make a big difference in the end.
"It is difficult to always get the perfect weekend, it’s not the easiest thing.
"We have to still find on the set-up side something that we are 100 per cent happy with, and we are looking for it and we have some ideas. But every time when it’s wet like this we have to wait and it’s not so simple to say okay we’ll try this and this. The weather can change or you have a small issue and then you cannot do anything.
"We just have to be patient and try to get as good a result as we can and try to just work on the small details that we have to improve."
Kimi Räikkönen unsure how Lotus will fare in Monaco
Kimi Raikkonen is upbeat that Lotus will be able to deliver a race-winning weekend this season, but he is unsure if it can do that as soon as the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Finn has finished on the podium in the last two races, and knows that the team has the pace to be able to go for victory.
But although he is one of the favourites for success on the streets of Monte Carlo, Raikkonen thinks it too early to judge whether or not his team’s E20 will have the pace to triumph.
"Monaco is a little bit different and it’s hard to say how it will go there," he said. "The team has done a good job so far and we still have work to do and things to improve.
"So far it’s going well and I’m happy with it. OK, we’re not 100 per cent satisfied with it because we are not winning but that’s a very normal thing and I’m pleased for the team."
He added: "To be on the podium twice already is good. Unfortunately you’re not always going to get there. If you get the chance, you should take it because it’s not every race that you will be able to fight for that position.
"Hopefully we can keep doing what we’re doing now and at a certain point I’m sure that things will go exactly right and we’ll get there. So far we’ve made good steps forward and the car has been strong everywhere."
Raikkonen’s team boss Eric Boullier is being equally cautious about the prospects for Monaco; although he is in no doubt that the outfit is ready to win.
"Our strength has been that we have been there or thereabouts at every circuit. So far we haven’t suffered the performance fluctuations that some of our rivals have seen," he said. "If we continue like this we will be very well placed for scoring good championship points. Of course, scoring points is one thing. They’re very valuable and whoever has the most wins the championship. But we all really want to have a win.
"Historically Enstone teams have shown good pace in Monaco, but last year’s car wasn’t strong in slow speed corners so we may have some work to do. In terms of the team and our drivers, we’re all ready for a win. We’re looking at every aspect of the car and how we run it and we’re all focused tremendously on achieving our goals. A win would be a fabulous thing."
Lotus will be introducing a high-downforce specification rear wing for Monaco, as well as updates to the sidepod and brake drums.
Räikkönen: Refuelling ban has bigger impact on racing than tyres
Kimi Raikkonen says that too much has been made of the impact of tyres on the racing this year – and thinks that it is the ban on refuelling that is playing a huge factor in shuffling up the order as well.
The competitiveness of the F1 field this year has meant elements like tyres are playing a bigger role in the outcome of races, with Pirelli having faced criticism that its products have now become too important in defining results.
However, Raikkonen is not convinced that Pirelli should have been singled out as the key element – because he reckons that the ban on refuelling is a big contributing factor too.
"I don’t think the nature [of F1] is different because of that," Raikkonen told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat about the impact of Pirelli.
"It’s because of the amount of the fuel on board. I don’t think there would be that much problem with these tyres, if we would race with 50 or 60 kilos, when we start.
"Previously the pitstops were made usually after every 20 laps, while we had less fuel. I think it would have been the same situation with Michelins and Bridgestones if we would have this much fuel as we have now.
"These tyres are good in qualifying: they have a good grip and all in all they are good tyres."
Refuelling was banned at the start of the 2010 season that witnessed four different winners in the first five races, and produced a four-way championship finale in Abu Dhabi.