For months it’s been merely an option. Now it looks set to become a reality. Kimi Raikkonen will take a one-year sabbatical from Formula One racing in 2010, to bridge the gap from one competitive car to another – or so he hopes. Some fear the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may have been the Finn’s last race, and that would be a shame – seeing a great character leave the paddock with no further ado. Then again, the ‘Iceman’ can usually be relied on to surprise…
Yes, that appears to be the case. I could not agree terms with McLaren so I have decided to take a one-year sabbatical.
Q: You always said that your staying in Formula One was dependant on having a competitive car. Presumably you now feel this is not achievable for 2010?
KR: Yes. I felt McLaren offered the best opportunity to win races and challenge for the drivers’ championship and if that would not work the one-year break is the result. And to be honest, I will only return in 2011 if a competitive drive is available.
Q: What would you do in that year off? Rallying? Look for other talents lurking within you?
KR: I do not know yet. I will look at competing in rallying. Again, naturally I want to drive a competitive car. If not I will spend more time with my family and friends.
Q: And how convinced are you that you will be back in 2011? Couldn’t going now mean the end of your Formula One career? Are you ready for that?
KR: As I said, I will only return in 2011 if I can drive a competitive car. I do not want to race just to make up the numbers. That does not interest me. But there’s a lot of time until then, so let’s wait and see what happens in the months ahead.
Q: The McLaren route is now blocked following their signing of Jenson Button. What brought your negotiations with them to a halt?
KR: My management held many meetings with McLaren. Unfortunately, certain issues could not be resolved. We knew in the last three or four days that it would be highly unlikely a deal could be reached. Now we know it is definite.
Q: What about moving to the newly formed Mercedes GP team? Have you put out any feelers towards Brackley?
KR: No, I have not held talks with Brawn. I feel they will run two German drivers next year now that Mercedes are involved.
Q: There was a lot of speculation concerning the role salary played in Button’s switch to McLaren – and lots of reports suggesting the same team were unwilling to meet your pay demands. What is your position on bargaining for salary?
KR: I feel a good driver can make a bigger difference nowadays. If you look at how close the whole grid was this year, if a driver can lap two-tenths faster that is worth many positions on the grid. That could easily be the difference between winning and losing.
Q: 2009 was your ninth season in Formula One racing. Have you achieved what you wanted? Your Ferrari successor Alonso was quoted as saying that after Ferrari he will quit, because after Ferrari any other team is a step down. So you could go out with your head held high…
KR: I achieved my dream of winning the drivers’ world championship. I would like to win another championship, but I can only do that if I have a competitive car. It’s that simple.
Q: How much of a petrol head still lays within Kimi Raikkonen?
KR: I have enjoyed my time in F1 and I still have ambitions. In the right circumstances I am very keen to return. The door is open. Let’s see what the future brings.