Today’s best rumor: Raikkonen to replace Schumacher at Mercedes

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Another less than stellar performance from seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has not quieted down the “Michael should/will quit” talk.

The latest guy to say Michael will do a “one and done” is Sir Jackie Stewart. His comments on in German at the Cologne Express. The BBC sums up the key part this way:

Sir Jackie Stewart believes Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher will retire again after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion returned to the sport this year but has failed to make an impact and Stewart said: “The first question should be ‘will he do another year?’ I believe he will stop after this season.”

But that is not my favorite Michael-related item. This is, from the Daily Star:

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh – who came close to signing him before grabbing world champ Jenson Button – reckons F1 is where Raikkonen belongs.

[snip]

Whitmarsh, who doubles as head of FOTA, the F1 Teams’ Association, added: “Kimi is one of the most exciting drivers in the world and, frankly, he should be in Formula One.

“If I could wave a magic wand for an F1 grid it would certainly include Kimi. That’s why last year we were talking to him.”

Raikkonen, would be targeted by the Red Bull team if Mark Webber moved on.

He will also be a consideration for Mercedes if Michael Schumacher quits.

Now, of course I like this because Martin Whitmarsh is agreeing with me: F1 needs Kimi.

But it’s that last line that really screams out. I love how it’s just dropped in there very casually. Of course all the anti-Schumacher stuff is just talk — although the Stewart quotes don’t come from British media — but at least some of it must reflect some talk among the paddock. The journalists can’t be making this stuff up out of whole cloth, can they? (Well, maybe…)

I actually think Ross Brawn and Kimi could be a pretty fine teaming. Ross the tactician with Kimi the pure driver. Neither one of them easily upset.

I still don’t know how Schumacher quits while saving face.

Kimi, by the way, finished 11th at the Rally Bulgaria after his crash mid-way through. And he was pretty pleased, all-in-all:

Now he feels that the experience gained will stand him in good stead for the three remaining asphalt rallies this year, in Germany, France and Spain.

“Some things were up and down but on the whole it was a good weekend,” said Raikkonen. “The most important thing was to get used to driving the rally car on asphalt, which is obviously a completely different experience to driving a Formula One car. I feel a bit more comfortable on asphalt than I do on gravel, but rallying is still a totally different sport compared to racing and we have a lot to learn. Bit by bit the feeling is coming though, and I actually liked a lot of the roads here in Bulgaria: they were quite flowing with a nice rhythm.”

Raikkonen will now get back to gravel with a two day test in Finland next week. “It will be nice to compete at home again and also to come back to a rally that I know a bit already,” he added.

Citroen Junior Team manager Benoit Nogier said that he was impressed with Raikkonen’s progress on what was only his first World Championship asphalt rally. “If you consider his lack of experience, the times that Kimi has set are remarkable,” he commented. “I think he has a lot of potential and this experience will definitely have helped him prepare for the remaining asphalt rallies.”

You can go to that link — the official WRC site — to see a great shot of Kimi in Red Bull gear. A sign of the future in F1?

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