I see that the leading French sports paper L’Equipe has an interview with Kimi Raikkonen this weekend, where he appears to close the door on F1 for good.
The 2007 world champion switched to rallying this season after being dropped by Ferrari in favour of Fernando Alonso. He joined forces with Red Bull and Citroen in WRC and this led to suggestions that his route back into F1 might be with the current championship leaders, but RBR team principal Christian Horner has always dismissed such suggestions and this weekend Raikkonen seems to be saying that he will not be back in F1,
“You never know, but I will probably not return to Formula 1,” he said. “I became the F1 world champion, which I had always wanted to do, but times have changed. I do rallying now and there is far more to life than F1.”
He always looked and behaved like a man who believed that there is far more to life than F1. Raikkonen disliked the politics in the sport and the intensity of the media scrutiny, especially at Ferrari. He found the sport rather inward looking, as it certainly can be. He is more temperamentally suited to the ambience of rallying.
Although he was never afraid of any competitor in F1, the level of driving is very high at the moment and with several top drivers in top cars, the competitions is probably as high as it has been for a couple of generations. To come back and face that he would have to be with a top team, like Red Bull, but as all the leading teams have at least one long term lead driver, there isn’t really a place for Raikkonen.
And Red Bull and Ferrari’s contrasting experiences this season of trying to handle two top drivers shows, it’s not easy to manage.
In rallying Raikkonen seems to be enjoying the challenge of building up a mental database of how the car behaves on the different surfaces, a process which takes many years and is the main challenge facing road racing converts such as him.
Therefore it makes little sense to do a year of rallying and then stop. Only with several years of experience will the results start to come.
“In racing, the surface of one circuit is not massively different to the surface of another, although there are some small changes, ” he says. “In rallying, the difference is huge on every event. There is so much variety on a rally: every kilometre and every corner is different. That’s why experience is so important in this sport. So I just need to keep on building up my knowledge.”
His fellow Finn Tommi Makinen believes that Raikkonen should stay in rallying and that he is having a good time in WRC,
“He seems to be happy,” he said.”Kimi is the kind of guy who wants to make success and find the best performance from himself. I’m sure he is the guy who is not giving up. That’s why I’m pretty sure he won’t jump out of rally yet. I’m pretty sure he will stay next year.”
F1 is the elite level of motorsport and it is where great talents should reside and live out their careers. It’s interesting that for personality and temperament reasons, both Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya ended up competing elsewhere, although Raikkonen did put in a nine year stint in F1, which is longer than most Finns, who historically don’t have very long F1 careers.
Raikkonen also reveals that he hasn’t paid much attention to this year’s F1 championship, “I’ve watched a few races, while for others the result was enough. I’m not particularly hooked.”