Toyota quashes suggestions F1 driver Raikkonen could return to WRC
Toyota has moved to quash suggestions that Ferrari Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen could return to the World Rally Championship with the squad next year.
Raikkonen competed in the WRC for two years in 2010 and ’11 after he was dropped by Ferrari at the end of the ’09 F1 season.
The Finn contested the full 2010 season with Citroen’s Junior Team before he tackled a select programme with his own Ice 1 Racing outfit a year later.
He then returned to F1 with Lotus, and is now in his fifth year of a second spell at Ferrari, but previously admitted he would be interested in returning to rallying.
When asked by F1 Racing earlier this year if he would return to the WRC in the future, Raikkonen told Autosport’s sister publication: "Maybe some races. For fun. I hope so anyway."
Finnish media reports on Friday quoted Mia Miettinen – the executive vice-president of Tommi Makinen Racing, which runs Toyota’s WRC programme – as saying the manufacturer would be interested in running Raikkonen should he end his spell in F1.
"Kimi could be a good option for Toyota, but he has to decide whether he continues his career with Ferrari," said Miettinen.
But Toyota sporting director Kaj Lindstrom – who was Raikkonen’s co-driver in the WRC in 2010 and ’11 – told Autosport no discussions about Raikkonen joining the outfit had taken place.
"This is the first I’ve heard of it," said Lindstrom.
"Clearly if anything like this was going to happen I would have been the first to hear about it from Tommi or him [Raikkonen].
"For me, this is pure speculation."
Toyota’s WRC team is headed by four-time world champion Makinen and based out of central Finland.
It currently runs Finnish drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi in two of its cars, with Estonian Ott Tanak in a third factory Yaris.
Raikkonen’s best result in the WRC was a fifth place on Rally Turkey in 2010.
From Sauber to Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen on F1’s evolution
Not only is he one of the most popular drivers on the grid and an F1 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen is also the eighth most experienced driver in history in terms of race starts. In that time, Raikkonen has raced V10s, V8s, tried his hand at rallying and is now trying to help Ferrari return to the front during the highly technological V6 era.
So what have been the big differences during his time in F1? And where are the big gains made which Raikkonen hopes will eventually see the Scuderia fighting for championships again in the near future? After signing a new contract at Ferrari, the Finn sat down with F1i to reminisce.
The Sauber and McLaren years
Raikkonen first drove an F1 car at Mugello in late 2000 as Sauber evaluated the quick youngster who had impressed during his debut year of Formula Renault. Then just 20 years old, Raikkonen admits he needed a day to adapt to grand prix machinery.
“I didn’t really have much idea because obviously I had never seen the car in real life – OK I’d seen them but not at the racetrack – apart from the day I went there and it was hard to know what to expect,” Raikkonen recalls. “I did Formula Renault, I did one test in Formula 3, OK it’s a bit faster than Formula Renault but not so much. The first test I did at Mugello, I was at the circuit earlier that year with Formula Renault but it’s a slightly different story with the F1 car!
“I think I went into it very open-minded because I didn’t really know what to expect so I just wanted to see how it is. Obviously it was a bit tricky because the conditioning for F1, my neck couldn’t handle it – any other circuit would have been a lot easier – so I could do maybe three laps and then I would box and wait. Obviously at that time there was no power steering in the car so that was a bit hard.
“I didn’t feel that it was so difficult to drive, it was just more the speed, to get used to the speed. Everything happens much faster and obviously it takes a while to get used to how hard you can brake. I would say the first day was a bit tricky because of that, just because everything happens so quickly, but then already after the first night it was a lot like everything slowed down and got more normal like you would drive a Formula Renault. It just slows down and it’s so much easier. It was an amazing feeling.”
The move to McLaren came about just a year later, with Raikkonen having impressed in his debut F1 season. You’d think the change to a front-running car was a noticeable one for a young driver, but the Finn says his first F1 car was still a competitive chassis.
“In a way yes, but I think we had a pretty good car at Sauber. It wasn’t like a completely bad car and we finished fourth in the championship so it was not a bad car at all. They did the best with their budget. McLaren is how it comes, a big team and so many people, it used to be in their old factory and not where they are now. English and Swiss teams have slightly different ways of working to achieve the same results.
“Car-wise every car is different, but I think we changed to Michelins as well at that time so I think that was the bigger difference to try and learn the tyres from Michelin. So the car was hard to compare really. It’s still a top, top team comparing with Sauber, but it was like you’ve jumped from one year to another year, it wasn’t like a completely new thing.
“So it was exciting, nice and new but I didn’t really find it so hard. There was always a lot more help from the team because they have more people and more money to use so in a way things got easier because of that. And then with experience it was also quite a lot different.”
Sat in the Shell track lab in the Ferrari trucks at Silverstone, the surroundings highlight just how much more support front-running teams can get in F1 thanks to close partnerships. Raikkonen says those sort of details stepping up from Sauber to McLaren are what start to make a big difference.
“You have a lot more resource for the team to develop the car, engine, fuel, oil, everything. More so electronics because it was a big part of that time [in the early 2000s]. In Sauber we got the power steering in Monza I think and obviously it was quite a nice thing, but all the small details that can make a lot of lap time – the diff, traction control and stuff – even then we had all the gearboxes that you could have, but the upshifts and downshifts, if you have more people you can put into those things it can make up a lot of lap time.
“So in that way it was also easier because there was not the knowledge and not enough people to do those things [in smaller teams]. It was just more people but they are trying to achieve the same result in two different companies. So McLaren took me in very easily and I felt straight away good. I had very good engineers there and it was just a new challenge.”
A first switch to Ferrari
Still searching for the drivers’ championship, Raikkonen moved to Maranello in 2007 to replace the outgoing Michael Schumacher. They were huge shoes to fill, but the first season brought the success Raikkonen had been searching for. So was that year’s Ferrari F2007 the best car he has driven in F1, or is that too simplistic given his title victory?
“Again the big difference was to change tyres,” Raikkonen explains. “To go from using Michelins for many years and then go back to Bridgestone; and it wasn’t the Bridgestone that it used to be before, it was completely different because everybody had the same tyres. So it was nowhere near as good or as special tyres as when there were two manufacturers fighting against each other. That made a big difference and also how you can drive and how the tyres work. So if you could have had the same tyres I don’t think it would have been so tricky, because it was not easy.
“Obviously between all of the cars I have driven, comparing the Ferrari it has always been harder to get it working, it takes more time to get it how you want. Once you get it then it’s fine, but it’s different. In those years when the tyres changed and went backwards – when I jumped to Michelin there was more grip and they made better tyres and kept improving – so it was a bit going the opposite way.
“Again a different country and different people, but I really enjoyed it. I was many years with McLaren and once I came to Ferrari I had a contract knowing I was going there for a long, long time and it was nice. You dream – or maybe you don’t dream – but Ferrari’s Ferrari, you know? And the other teams, they are not Ferrari. I don’t care how much they have won and all that.”
The season itself was a dramatic one, which Raikkonen admits was far from easy even if it resulted in championship success at the final round in Brazil.
“Obviously I struggled a bit in the beginning during testing, finding a lot of different ways of doing similar things. Then we found our way, then we had some struggles but we managed to turn everything around and make a good season out of it, but it wasn’t easy in any way. We started well, maybe too well, because then it went back to normal and we knew we were not where we wanted to be at the start. We hung in there, we had some issues but we came back very strong but it was an amazing year.
“You always wish it could be more smooth sailing because it was a lot of up and down but we managed to do it in the end and we won more races than the other guys and had more points. I didn’t expect to win the championship straight away, especially with Ferrari, and it hasn’t been easy at any point but I think we’re getting back to where we feel that it’s going in the right direction and it has been going well for a couple of years. I’m sure we can get back to where Ferrari used to be and where we should be.”
A break and a return with Lotus
Having already enjoyed nine consecutive seasons in F1, Raikkonen took a break and went to compete in other motorsport categories – mainly rallying – for two years. He had only experienced one year of new aero regulations when he left, and in a less competitive Ferrari than he had been used to.
Returning to F1 two years before the V6 turbo engines were introduced, Raikkonen had to adapt to another new team in the form of Lotus, and a new tyre manufacturer in Pirelli. It’s a period he feels improved him as a driver, as he had to learn additional skills on top of his raw driving talent.
“Obviously I had my doubts because I hadn’t driven for a few years in F1 but I also knew more or less how it’s going to be,” Raikkonen says of his return to the sport. “Every year there are rule changes, this and that, tyres change, but I was pretty sure that as long as the front is somewhere there with the car we’ll be just fine with it.
“When I drove a two-year old car – the first Lotus – with the demo tyres in Valencia it felt good straight away. There were some issues we had to fix with the steering and stuff, some minor details, but it felt very normal from the first lap. So I think it was a good place to start. In Valencia I haven’t done too many laps in my life because it’s a short circuit and not the fastest circuit but after ten laps it felt very normal and I knew it would be just fine.
“Then there is a question mark over how is that year’s car comparing to the others, but when I came back I didn’t have many worries. OK you always have something in your mind about how it’s going to be but I would never have signed a contract if I didn’t think that it would be fine. One big benefit that I felt was that I was driving all the time, I was racing and in the rally – whatever people say – it teaches you a lot. Even when I did rallies in 2009 with Ferrari I felt that it was only helpful.
“Obviously there are dangers and stuff like this but you can get hurt anywhere so I think it teaches you a lot because you have to be so precise and concentration has to be even higher because you have to listen all the time. It’s not just listening but driving too, so you have to mix a few things and until that gets completely normal to the point you’re not thinking about it you will never be fast enough.
“I could be as fast as the others on test roads because you know it and it’s not an issue. But then to do it from the notes – and you have to build the notes up – I felt that it teaches you a lot. And it helps for sure to be driving because it’s a very hard sport, so that’s why if I was not doing anything for two years for sure it would take time but I felt like it was not such a big deal.”
Ferrari comes calling again as V6s arrive
At the start of the new power unit era, Raikkonen returned to Ferrari for a second time. While the team is familiar, the regulations and the sport itself is very different from the last time at Maranello.
Nowadays, it is not just new front wings or engine updates which help increase the car’s competitiveness, with Shell providing Ferrari with 25% of its overall performance gain in 2015 through fuel and oil. Guy Lovett, Shell’s Innovation Manager for motorsport, works out of the track lab where Raikkonen is sat, and explains the improvements all come within very strict regulations.
“In Formula 1 the fuel is really tightly regulated, which is a good thing because it means that the fuel we’re using here for Ferrari in Formula 1 is very, very similar to the fuel you can buy out in a gas station,” Lovett says. “It’s 99% the same. For Shell that is absolutely imperative because all the technology and all the innovation that we yield from working in Formula 1 and motorsport we can then transfer to our road-going products. That is of fundamental importance to us.
“Nevertheless, the regulations do allow for a degree of innovation, which again is important to us to be able to trial new concepts, new technologies and new additives here in Formula 1 in quite controlled yet incredibly extreme conditions.
“Right now there are no limits to the number of formulations you can bring and there’s very little regulation governing the oils. There is a bit on fuel but still there is enough scope for us to innovate. Fuel and oil have always been relatively unconstrained in a good way to push forward development, where engine regulations have been somewhat more fixed in the past. So, looking at the V8 era, again there were very little regulations governing fuel and oil whereas the engines were pretty much fixed towards the end of the V8 time.
“It’s opened up a lot more from an engine perspective with the V6, it’s starting to be more prescribed. Next year is going to get a little bit more interesting, a little bit freer but it will be the same for us and that’s what we want. We’re here to innovate and develop and learn. Our mandates are to help Ferrari win and transfer technology from track to road. Kind of simple in that respect!”
When Raikkonen jumps in the car, he admits the performance gains are difficult to notice, but that again is a product of the evolution in F1 as teams and suppliers rarely get the chance to do back-to-back comparisons of upgrades.
“It’s hard to feel the difference,” Raikkonen says. “In the past it was much easier when we were testing between races because you could do one run with this fuel and then change it for the next run so you can really feel it or maybe or not. Obviously if it’s just one horsepower or two then you will probably never feel it because you can have one lap with the wind blowing one way and then the other on the next lap!
“But you could often feel it, whereas now it’s either one race weekend or another, different places, different wing levels, often different conditions, so there’s so many variables that it has to be a big, big change on anything that we bring to the car to really pinpoint ‘OK, yes I can feel it’, because we don’t do that kind of testing. Like when we used to do tyre testing we would do one run and then do the next run with a different tyre so you could get a good idea of things.
“Now it’s more like we trust the numbers, that’s why we have all these things [in the lab]. Obviously Shell has been a long partnership with Ferrari and even when I was with them in 2007 and 2008 and 2009, in 07 we made big, big gains in fuel and oil and lots of horsepower. So I knew how it works, and obviously now with the new rules and everything it is a big benefit to have this relationship because obviously certain years you get close to the maximum you can achieve under those rules. Now everything has been mixed up with new rules, you again have more opportunities to make a big difference. So for sure we get a lot of help from Shell.”
Having been through so much in his career already and having to adapt to new ways of working, does Raikkonen find the current formula in F1 enjoyable? Put simply: “Yeah.
“When it came in in 2014 everything was new and probably not at the level we wanted. OK, some teams were at the level they wanted, but for sure we were not happy with where we were. Drivability was also depending on how good your car is or the grip on the circuit or conditions, it wasn’t always easy [to judge] because it made it quite tricky. But now after a few years everything has improved so much.
“Driving-wise the sound is different but the driving itself hasn’t changed. You drive the same way, OK you have fuel saving but in the past you had brake saving or something, so it’s the same thing just affecting different things. So I wouldn’t say there’s an awful lot different apart from the sound and I guess a certain feeling around you, but for me it’s good already again that it’s normal now.”
Ferrari F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen keen to try World Rallycross
Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen says he would like to try World Rallycross at some point in the future.
The 2007 F1 world champion previously dabbled in the World Rally Championship and NASCAR when he took a sabbatical from grand prix racing in 2010-11.
Rallycross has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, attracting the likes of 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve and Audi DTM ace Mattias Ekstrom to the ranks of the new FIA world championship.
Speaking to reporters during the recent Austrian Grand Prix, Raikkonen said he would be open to sampling this branch of the sport.
"Rallycross would be very nice to try, it looks good fun – similar to rally but against each other," said the Finn.
"Obviously I enjoyed rallying a lot, it’s a very difficult sport and a good challenge.
"I think it’s good to do different things because you always learn something and it’s good fun also."
Raikkonen’s Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso said during the Austrian GP that he plans to race at Le Mans after his F1 career is finished, while Raikkonen, who tested a Peugeot 908 LMP1 car in 2011, said Le Mans would be "on top of the list" of other races for him to do besides F1.
"Obviously I enjoy racing and Le Mans is one of the things that would be on top of the list, because it’s a very famous race," Raikkonen added.
"We have to see what happens in the future, but for sure there is some interest to do that race."
Kimi lo spericolato: cross, motoslitte e un altro mondiale
Raikkonen è un appassionato di velocità a 360°: il prossimo anno il suo team sarà protagonista del Campionato MX1 di motocross e cercherà di strappare il titolo a Tony Cairoli. E anche il neo ferrarista non disdegna le acrobazie in sella.
Kimi Raikkonen è un personaggio che ama la velocità in tutte le sue definizioni. La Formula 1 ovviamente è la punta dell’iceberg, ma in passato il neo pilota della Ferrari ha cercato l’adrenalina anche nei rally, in Nascar, con il motocross e addirittura con le motoslitte,
Nel 2011, Kimi fondò l’Ice 1 Racing, team con cui partecipò al Mondiale WRC in partnership con la Citroen. Tornato in Formula 1, il finlandese decise di puntare sull’altro grande amore, quello del motocross. Guidato dal sette volte iridato in enduro, Kari Tianen, il team ha partecipato all’ultimo campionato del mondo MX1 con il portoghese Rui Gonçalves, che ha totalizzato 240 punti (13° in classifica generale), salendo anche due volte sul podio, e con il francese Xavier Boog.
Dalla prossima stagione però, Raikkonen farà sul serio. Grazie anche all’importante sponsorizzazione della Red Bull, il finlandese alza il tiro. Ice 1 infatti ha ingaggiato il sudafricano Tyla Rattray, già campione del mondo nella classe MX2, e il promettente australiano Todd Waters. I due saranno dotati di moto Husqvarna, una leggenda nel settore, per contendere il titolo al nostro Tony Cairoli.
Lo stesso Kimi non disdegna qualche acrobazia in sella alla moto da cross, come dimostra il video qui sotto, girato lo scorso aprile pochi giorni prima dal Gp di Cina. Chissà se a Maranello avranno inserito nel contratto qualche clausola restrittiva sugli hobby ‘spericolati’ dell’ex iridato…
An enigma known as Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Matias Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion, evokes mixed response from people both inside and outside Formula 1. But, those who have known him closely have nice things to say about him, Jean Todt, The current FIA President has been quoted saying, “He is a genuine and sincere lad.
I have always liked him both as a driver and in terms of the way he is out of the cockpit; always remaining the same in what is the difficult world of Formula 1″. The current Ferrari Team Principle Stefano Domenicali has this to say (some sarcasm mixed with praise), “It has to be said also that Kimi is unbelievable. He’s so focused in his work. Nothing else other than his work”. But, some have questions regarding Kimi’s commitment to give his 100% whenever he races.
In 2010, when Kimi “supposedly” contacted the then Renault Team Principle Eric Boullier for a racing seat, Eric had said, “I would have to speak personally with him first, look him in the eyes to see if I see enough motivation there for him to return to F1. It doesn’t make sense to hire somebody, even a former world champion, if you cannot be sure that his motivation is still 100%. Why should you invest in somebody who leaves you guessing?
So, why does Kimi evoke such mixed response? Let’s take a look at his career in Formula 1 and try to find out.
Kimi started his Formula 1 career in 2001 with Sauber. His signing by the then Sauber Team principle, Peter Sauber came into critisim because of Kimi’s lack of experience, he had only 23 races to his credit at the time of signing the contract. Kimi had primarily raced in junior open-wheel category races.
He won the British Formula Renault winter series of 1999. In 2000, he won seven out of ten events in the Formula Renault UK Championship. But, this wasn’t enough for a F1 Super License, which every driver who wants to enter Formula 1 has to possess.
Nonetheless, he was granted the license, most likely by the lobbying of Peter Sauber who had immense faith in him. Kimi did not let Peter Sauber down, he scored his first championship point in his debut race at Australian Grand Prix in 2001 itself. Is is reportedly said that Kimi was asleep until 30 minutes before the race!
However, Kimi had a fruitful debut season, scoring points in four races and finishing in the top eight eight times. He along with team mate Nick Heidfeld helped Sauber to secure fourth place in the constructors’ championship, Sauber’s best result ever.
In 2002, Kimi joined Mclaren replacing his countrymen and mentor Mika Hakkinen. He would go on and race for Mclaren for four more years until 2006, where each season he was troubled by constant reliability issues with his car. In 2003 he came within two points of winning the World Championship from Schumacher. He lost out mainly due to unreliability of the Mclaren.
Again in 2005, he lost the championship to Alonso from 21 points, Mclaren’s unreliable package again playing the spoilsport. Raikkonen raised the possibility that he might leave McLaren when his contract expired in 2006 if reliability issues were not solved. 2006 continued in the same fashion, where Raikkonen had to retire from 6 races.
The only consolation being that Raikkonen was adjudged “Driver of the Year” from F1 Racing magazine and “International Racing Driver of the Year” from Autosport magazine. Even after facing so many technical problems with his car Raikkonen didn’t loose his focus, each time he was in a favourable position to win the race, he went ahead and won it.
Perhaps, this quality of his led Mclaren Team Principle Ron Dennis to famously call him as the “Iceman” for his steely determination and for his ability to stay cool headed during tense situations. In all he had retired an astounding 31 times out of 88 races during his tenure with Mclaren. This roughly translates to a situation where Raikkonen had to retire once in every three races that he competed! Naturally, in search of a reliable car, Raikkonen switched teams and joined Ferrari in 2007.
Finally in 2007 Raikkonen joined Ferrari replacing the retiring Schumacher on a three year contract. Raikkonen had negotiated a deal with Ferrari with a base salary of $51 million annually which made him the world’s highest salaried star in any team sport. The first season with Ferrari was fantastic for Raikkonen as he beat Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in a scintillating Brazilian Grand Prix to clinch his first Drivers’ World Championship. But the subsequent two years were not as good as Raikkonen would have hoped for.
In 2009 he came under heavy criticism from Ferrari for his passive behaviour, Ferrari felt that Raikkonen was not committed in giving his 100% to achieve the objectives of the team. The best example for this would be the Malaysian Grand Prix, where due to a technical glitch Ferrari called Raikkonen into the pits to try and workout the issue and send him back on track again.
But Raikkonen, being the guy is he is went straight into the garage, took off his race gear, hit the shower, grabbed a coke and an ice cream! In the meanwhile in an uncoordinated effort and a PR person’s nightmare, Ferrari President Luca Di di Montezemolo was addressing the press at the same time stating that they might get Kimi’s car ready for the restart!
While the images of Kimi relaxing in his shorts were rolling over the screen! Ferrari were deeply embarrassed over this incident and by that point had pretty much decided on bringing Alonso into Ferrari for the 2010 season and dumping Raikkonen by paying his contract out (he still had a contract for 2010 with Ferrari).
It is here that, if I may say so, a “grumpy” Kimi Raikkonen came out. He was perceived to be careless, not wanting to be surrounded by reporters, not wanting to give interviews, even when he gave interviews his answers were robotic and monotonous . He even was not comfortable attending the events organized by the sponsors, which is so critical in Formula 1. No one would dare to disappoint the sponsors, but this was Kimi! In short, he just wanted to be left alone!
No one knows why Raikkonen felt this way. So, the “Iceman” we had here was not the one described by Ron Dennis, but was the one who was cold and snobbish, giving the impression that he had lost his desire for the sport. There were reports that Raikkonen had discussions with some teams for a possible race seat for 2010, but nothing really materialized. Later, Raikkonen announced that he will not be taking part in the 2010 season of Formula 1.
Raikkonen then went on to try his luck with Rallying. But fared miserably there. He even competed in NASCAR debuting for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But he couldn’t replicate his success in Formula 1 in any other motorsport.
Finally in 2012, Raikkonen came back to Formula 1 by signing a two year contract with Lotus. Lotus Team Principle Eric Boullier must have felt Raikkonen was really committed this time! (Pun intended, in reference to the quote from him mentioned in the first paragraph). In his come back season, Raikkonen was highly successful, scoring seven podiums including a win in Abu Dhabi. He ended third in the Drivers’ World Championship. 2013 has been even better so far, where Raikkonen achieved the feat of having finished in the points for the 25th consecutive race, breaking Schumacher’s record.
Clearly, Raikkonen has got his “Mojo” back. Whatever was bugging him when he left Formula 1 is not bugging him anymore. Ferrari who forced him out of their team in 2009, welcomed him with open arms with a two year deal, which he accepted gladly, making it a grand home coming of sorts for Raikkonen. However, it will be interesting to see how he cops with Fernando Alonso as his partner at Ferrari in 2014.
We all knew what kind of a person Raikkonen was since he came to Formula 1. It is just that when his form dipped, his bizarre antics were highlighted. Raikkonen is basically a person who comes, does his job to the best of his ability and then just does whatever the hell he wants!
One major example is the Monaco Grand Prix where after he retired from the race, unlike other drivers’ he didn’t head back to the garage to explain what happened, he just simply walked off the track and onto the dock in his full race gear to get on a yacht, then a couple of minutes later was pictured in the hot tub, drinking beer!
To finally conclude, isn’t this “I don’t care!” attitude what attracted us fans towards Raikkonen in the first place? We loved it when he said, “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” to his team over radio. We love his answers in interviews even though it looks as if he’s answering just because he to! He has a personality that’s rare in Formula 1 and draws fans in large numbers. If a popularity contest is conducted among the current drivers’ in Formula 1, Raikkonen may well top it!
Stay the way you are Kimi, we love you that way!
Rally made Raikkonen better F1 driver says Solberg
Kimi Raikkonen’s rallying foray made him a better Formula One driver.
That is the claim of 2003 world rally champion Petter Solberg, who got to know the ‘iceman’ during his two-year F1 sabbatical in 2010 and 2011.
Finn Raikkonen returned to F1 with Lotus last season, impressing the grand prix world yet again after his career had flat-lined in his final two years at Ferrari.
“I know Kimi and I believe that the rally made him a better Formula One driver,” Solberg told the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).
Like many observers, Solberg thinks Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari next year, where he will become current ‘number 1′ Fernando Alonso’s teammate, will be interesting to watch.
“Alonso will certainly not like it,” Solberg said of Raikkonen’s impending move.
“But Kimi is cool,” he added. “He drives the car, and that’s it.”
Former Ferrari boss Cesare Fiorio said last week he would not have signed Raikkonen.
“I admire his talent, but not his lifestyle or his technical work,” he is quoted by Italy’s Tuttosport.
But another former Ferrari boss, the current FIA president Jean Todt, backed the decision taken by the Maranello team’s current chiefs.
“Ferrari is a Formula One institution, and very strong,” he told the Italpress agency, “and I am absolutely certain they will also be at the highest level in the coming years.”
As for signing Raikkonen, “Ferrari has always known how to make the right decisions,” Todt insisted.
Kimi comes back to rallying
Kimi Raikkonen will squeeze in a rally in between the Spanish and Monaco grands prix next month – but sadly he won’t be competing. Or will he?
The 2007 Formula One World Champion – who competed full-time in the WRC from 2010-2011 – will be attending the start of the 15th anniversary Gumball Rally, which starts from Copenhagen on May 18th. After that, we’ll have to wait and see.
The Gumball Rally isn’t quite rallying as we know it: instead it’s all about a load of supercars driving around Europe – a bit like the Carrera Panamericana, but with better parties. As one team’s motto puts it: “we don’t drive fast, we fly low.” But as it’s all on public roads, officially there is no competitive element.
And while Kimi isn’t taking part, he has some very good friends who are: car number 34’s team description is simply: “four crazy Finns.” The Finns in question are the ‘Dudeson brothers’: four Finnish stuntmen with their own TV show, which is broadly the equivalent of Jackass.
The first stage is from Copenhagen to Stockholm, followed by a stage from Stockholm to Helsinki – and rumours keep persisting that car 34 might have an unscheduled guest driver on the opening leg…
Other confirmed drivers for the Gumball include the legend that is David Hasselhoff and a car crewed by members of the band Cypress Hill, as well as professional skier Jon Olsson.
The Gumball 3000 finishes in Monaco, after going via St Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga, Warsaw and Vienna.
Kimi Räikkönen keen to make ‘fun’ rally return after F1
Kimi Raikkonen is keen to return to rallying "for fun" after his Formula 1 career is over.
The 32-year-old Finn has no plans to walk away from grand prix racing and has impressed on his comeback after two years competing in the World Rally Championship.
But when his time in F1 does come to an end in the future, he wants to try his hand at rallying again.
"I will do it for fun," Raikkonen told AUTOSPORT. "The one reason why I wanted to do it in the first place was to see if I can do it or not.
"I’m a big fan of it and I always thought it was so difficult that I wanted to see what happens.
"I still want to improve in it and try to do well. It’s something that, when I’m a bit older, I can do and have fun with. I will definitely do it when I have more time.
"I enjoy both [rallying and F1]. I would like to do both of them at the same time but because of timetables, schedules and other reasons it’s not possible."
Raikkonen denied the suggestion that his return to F1 was indicative that he has lost interest in rallying.
But Raikkonen did admit that he missed the wheel-to-wheel aspect of racing.
"It’s not that I lost interest in rallying," said Raikkonen. "It’s just that I’ve always raced in my life and when you race against each other it’s different to just doing times.
"I enjoy racing against people. It’s why I came back, to have a fight against others.
"It’s completely different to last year in rallying. When I did NASCAR [in 2011] I enjoyed it a lot and even though it is very different to F1, it’s still racing against each other.
"I had a good time. I kind of missed it [racing]."