Kimi to Renault: Could and should it happen?

To be perfectly honest, I like Kimi Raikkonen. I can’t help it; it’s just something about his idiomatic approach to F1 that makes me like the fellow. I am not alone, however, as fans have been so ardent in their support that they have nearly afforded him a cult-hero status. He’s gained that status without saying anything in particular and it’s odd that a man who says little can have such a loud voice but that is Kimi Raikkonen. He is a world champion and a mystery to those who work around him. He shows up and drives the car…very quickly.

With today’s news from Renault that the driver from Finland has been poking around about a 2011 ride at the team, it has me wondering if this will happen and if it should happen. The answer to the second question, much to the interviewing F1 journalist’s chagrin, is that yes he should return. The answer to the first question is a bit more complicated.

If rumors are correct, Renault is in need of cash. They had asked FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone for an advance on their year-end payout from the commercial rights holder for what they said was development on next year’s car. They have made it perfectly clear that current Russian rookie driver Vitaly Petrov is in danger of losing his seat and many suggest that this is in fact due to his waning sponsorship dollars flowing into Renault bank accounts. That’s all rumor of course and we certainly can’s substantiate any of it.

There is the other issue of securing the services of much-touted F1 driver Robert Kubica as their clear number one for 2011. They made no bones about the fact that Kubica was their man and that the whole team were going to work for his success. A returning Kimi Raikkonen may just expose the hype over Robert Kubica if there is any to expose. Raikkonen has a way of being massively quick and untouchable when all things are aligned and this skill is teammate-humbling to say the least.

The last question I have concerns the money to pay Raikkonen with. Raikkonen would most likely be a package the team could sell and they might be able to approach potential sponsors with the news of a returning Kimi to see if they could off-set the cost of his salary demands and even make a few quid to build him a good car. That’s a big “if” in this economy. They are already paying a large salary for Kubica and I suggest that Kimi’s required salary would be even higher as a world champion. Team boss Eric Boullier agrees with that notion.

Can this work? It can as long as the money is there. Boullier is a sharp guy and I think he also realizes that it is a game changer. He is also careful not to immediately throw Petrov to the wolves just because of some ancillary conversation with former drivers. Petrov is most likely trying very hard to stay and raise the capital needed. I think the young man has done a good job this year and with a veteran teammate as the clear number one, the team seems set for 2011 as long as the Russian driver’s sponsor money comes.

If the team has to find other avenues for cash, should Petrov’s backers fail to provide, then they might as well go all out and see if they can find a sponsor willing to help them fund the “return of the Champion” and make a meal out of it. Raikkonen isn’t going to pay to drive but maybe a sponsor would pay for him to drive. It’s a tough question of team economics and I would hate to see Petrov leave Renault but the idea of a returning Kimi is almost too good to pass up. Kimi is, oddly, good for F1 if for any other reason than to get the world talking of his monosyllabic responses, ice cream eating, drunken gorilla suit antics and lethargic approach to the corporate line. In fact, it’s hilarious to watch.

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