Kimi Raikkonen is close to signing up for another year of rallying with Red Bull, Autosport is reporting today.
I do think there is some wriggle room, though, so those who’d rather see him back in Formula 1 don’t need to despair. (Just start preparing to do so, although there’s another avenue for his possible F1 return.)
Here’s the scoop from Autosport:
Kimi Raikkonen is set to commit to the World Rally Championship for a second season, reveals this week’s AUTOSPORT.
The 2007 Formula 1 world champion had been linked to a return to grand prix racing with Renault next year, but the Finn intends to stay in rallying for at least one more year.
Raikkonen is believed to be keen for his relationship with Red Bull in the long term, opening the door for a possible F1 return wuth the energy drink firm’s team in 2012.
“I don’t miss Formula 1 and I am enjoying what I am doing now,” Raikkonen said at the Bulgarian round of the WRC last weekend.
“I have still not decided what I am doing next year yet. Soon I have to decide, maybe it will be just after Rally Finland.”
That strikes me as still uncommitted, which is the message Kimi was sending during the last rally weekend — a rally held on asphalt in which the Finn was fast — top driver fast — but crashed out mid-race, scuttling chances for his first really good showing. He returned to the race and did keep pace with the leaders.
Here’s a little more, which pushes the news toward Kimi in WRC:
A Red Bull source confirmed to AUTOSPORT that it is close to a deal with Raikkonen: “We are very happy with what Kimi has done this season. He is very good for the Red Bull brand and we are looking to extend his agreement into next year. I think this is likely.”
Citroen Racing director Olivier Quesnel is confident that he will retain Raikkonen in 2011.
“I’m sure this will happen,” he said. “For myself, he is really involved in rallying and he wants to succeed. I will be pleased if he will stay. he has done one year and he needs to do one more year to make sure.”
Sebastien Loeb agrees that it would benefit Raikkonen to stay for at least a second year in the WRC.
Well, is Loeb says it…
We’ll have to see. Kimi — as usual — is so far pretty unreadable in his public comments. And he certainly can’t feel like he’s given WRC his best, as Loeb says. A driver has to learn the circuits.
But there’s something about the 2012 Red Bull return that doesn’t quite fit for me. Another year away from F1 does not strike me as the best way for Kimi to stay competitive. But as we’ve seen, it’s 99% about the car in F1, so maybe a year away and then back in a front-running Red Bull is his best avenue in F1.
Would sticking with WRC be his best path? What about chancing that Renault takes another step forward in F1? And what about the seat at Mercedes he’s been rumored for, in the event Michael Schumacher leaves?