Always a driver to do things his own way, 2007 F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen has announced that he will drive for the Red Bull Citroen team in the World Rally Championship next season. He is the first world F1 champion to make that move.
The 30 year old Finn has always had a soft spot for the sport and has competed in several rallies during his F1 career, including Rally Finland. When he failed to find a deal with McLaren for next season in F1 he announced that he would take a sabbatical from F1. That appears to be the current thinking, so he anticipates a return to F1 in 2011, but that will depend on what opportunities may open up and how much he enjoys his new life in rallying.
His links with Red Bull will be the ones to watch. Mark Webber has one more year left on his contract at Red Bull Racing and Raikkonen is likely to target that seat, if he is to make a return. Webber’s form in 2010 and the willingness of the Red Bull management to examine the Raikkonen option will be key talking points throughout next season.
He is set to earn well from his sabbatical; Ferrari is paying him €17 million, as severance pay after his contract was terminated a year early.
“I always wanted to compete in rally, especially in the World Rally Championship at some point in my career,” said Raikkonen.
“Thanks to Red Bull, I have the opportunity to drive the best car of the series with the Citroen C4. This is a new but very exciting challenge. For the moment we have a one-year contract and we will see how it goes for the future. I am really looking forward to testing the car and taking the start of the first rally.”