Friday, 28 August 2009

Raikkonen gives biggest hint yet of not being at Ferrari next year

Talking to reporters on Friday, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen threw some doubts about his future in Formula 1. Although Raikkonen said that he will be driving in Formula 1 next year, and that is a certainty, he gave the biggest hint so far of the possibility of not having a Ferrari drive next year.

Raikkonen said: "If for some reason I am not at Ferrari next season I know I'll have a seat at another team in the paddock. It's not a problem. Other teams want me.

"I'm too young to retire. I have a contract with Ferrari for next season. If I didn't want to race next season I would not have signed a contract."

For quite a while now, it has been an open secret in the paddock that Fernando Alonso will be driving for Ferrari next year. Neither Alonso nor Ferrari have officially confirmed anything yet, but rumours have it that Alonso has signed a binding contract with Ferrari which means that he will be replacing Kimi Raikkonen from next year. Ferrari was reportedly planning to announce the deal with Alonso during the Italian Grand Prix weekend in September, but since the horrific crash of their other driver Felipe Massa, may now wait to make the announcement until the end of the season. It seems pretty certain that whoever is driving the other car, Massa's seat is safe at Ferrari.

Raikkonen reportedly has a Ferrari contract worth $50 million that Maranello will have to pay out if the Finn is to leave them a year early. In spite of being the highest paid driver on the grid, Raikkonen's performance has been surprisingly lacklustre since he won the World Championship in 2007. Last year he was comprehensively beaten by his team mate Felipe Massa, who is on a lower pay grade at Ferrari than Raikkonen. It now seems that the Ferrari bosses are more intent in getting a driver who can perform consistently better as the team looks to get back into championship contention from next year after a dismal 2009.

It is also clear that at rivals McLaren-Mercedes, Heikki Kovalainen's seat is far from certain. World Champion Lewis Hamilton is locked into a contract with the Woking based team at least until 2012, but his team-mate's position is up for grabs, or so it seems. Some reporters have been suggesting lately that Kimi Raikkonen could make a shock return to McLaren if he really does not have a Ferrari drive next year. Raikkonen drove for McLaren-Mercedes between 2002 and 2006 before coming to Ferrari from 2007 as a replacement for seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher.

The so-called "silly season" in Formula 1 is in full swing right now and all these rumours and speculations and reading between the lines are only a part of it. However, as long time Formula 1 fans should know very well, that although not all the rumours eventually materialise, a lot more of them actually end up being true than people might realise.

After the current race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in mid-September is not just Ferrari's home race but is also the last of the European races this season. So we can possibly get a better insight into this whole Ferrari-Alonso-Raikkonen situation during that weekend. For now though, we have got the prospect of a very exciting race at Spa-Francorchamps and let us not get distracted from enjoying the race at one of motorsport's most historic venues. For UK viewers, coverage of the Qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps begins live on BBC One and the BBC Sport Website tomorrow at 12:10pm BST. Radio listeners can also tune in to BBC 5 Live sports extra for live commentary. Until next time, drive safely everyone!

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