Raikkonen departed the scene at the end of last season, having been released by Ferrari in favour of fellow title-winner Fernando Alonso and after discussions with erstwhile employers McLaren-Mercedes were grounded by a failure to agree financial terms.
The 18-time grand prix-winner subsequently turned his attentions to rallying, entering the World Rally Championship with the Red Bull-backed Citroën Junior Team and to-date taking a best finish of fifth on the Rally of Turkey in April, almost seven minutes shy of the winner but an impressive 24-place improvement on his debut with his new team in Sweden two months earlier as he continues to adapt to what is a very different style of driving to F1, and what he openly acknowledges is a steep learning curve indeed.
Whilst insisting that he is enjoying his new venture, in an interview with Austrian publication Kleine Zeitung, Raikkonen confessed that ‘anything is possible’ when asked if he would consider rejoining the grand prix grid should the opportunity present itself, though he quickly added that ‘the past is what it is – over…I don’t miss it’ and revealed that adding a WRC crown to his 2007 F1 Drivers’ World Championship laurels ‘is a dream’. The 30-year-old went on to opine that not only is rallying more difficult than F1, but it is also more fun.
“I love this job and the whole environment,” he enthused, “but I have much to learn and I want to be good at what I do. With a relaxed setting, you do not go far. Now it is the time to learn, because it’s constantly changing – the weather, the surface, the track. You have to be flexible, adjusting and responding quickly. There are always new challenges, my Formula 1 past does me no harm.”
Red Bull Racing had been mooted for some time as a potential home for Raikkonen if he did wish to return to F1 in 2011, ostensibly in-place of in-form current world championship leader Mark Webber. The fall-out from the contentious Turkish Grand Prix and Red Bull’s initial support of Sebastian Vettel and reprobation of Webber did little to quieten such speculation – but the announcement of the Australian’s retention today has put an end to that possibility. Nonetheless, Raikkonen’s manager Steve Robertson has enigmatically reflected that it would be wise to ‘never say never’.
“We have not had any discussions in any direction for next season,” the Englishman told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat. “There will be a time when Kimi will think about what he wants to do.”