World Rally Championship runner-up Mikko
Hirvonen doubts that Kimi Raikkonen would be an immediate success if he
switched to the WRC next year.
Raikkonen is planning to take a sabbatical from Formula 1 for at
least one season following the end of his negotiations with McLaren
over a 2010 seat.
The Finn has long been interested in rallying and has hinted it
would be his next step after F1. He contested this year’s Rally Finland
in a Super 2000 car and set an impressive pace before crashing.
But Raikkonen’s compatriot Hirvonen thinks the regular WRC drivers’
years of practice on the stages and with driving to pace notes gives
them a huge advantage.
"Kimi is fast and with driving he doesn’t have problems," Hirvonen
told Finnish website Sportti.com. "But preparing to drive with pace
notes is a difficult case for him.
"We WRC drivers have so much more experience, and almost all the
rallies will be unknown to Kimi in advance. It’s difficult to imagine
that Kimi could succeed, at least in his first season."
Hirvonen’s manager Timo Jouhki, who also brought Juha Kankkunen,
Tommi Makinen, Toni Gardemeister and Jari-Matti Latvala to rallying’s
top level, agreed that Raikkonen would need time to get up to speed.
"Kimi is a really talented driver. No other F1 driver has been
driving a rally at that level," said Jouhki. "Rallying, however,
requires so much experience that I basically cannot see him having any
chance in the first year. Rallying is such a difficult sport and
Despite suspecting he might struggle initially, Hirvonen reckons
the chances of Raikkonen appearing in next season’s WRC are high.
"That man does not surprise me in anything," said Hirvonen. "I
would not be surprised if Kimi took a year off, and did for example
five World Championship rallies, or pushed for the whole season."
who won the World Rally Championship in 2003, has a unique perspective
on the Finn’s potential, having this year driven both a Ferrari F1 car
at the Fiorano test track in Italy and a C4 World Rally Car – the car
Raikkonen is expected to drive – on two rounds of the WRC.
exclusively to wrc.com, Solberg ruled out a WRC victory for Raikkonen
next year but felt his F1 championship winning background would stand
him in good stead.
"With the proper practise planning and testing
I think he will adapt quickly," said Solberg. "He’s a very, very good
driver, and once he’s learned the basics, like how to work with pace
notes, I think he will surprise many people. We’ve already seen how
quick he was in Finland in a Super 2000 car, and if he’s in a decent
World Rally Car next season I think he could finish between third and
fifth on some rallies. The fact is, if you can drive, you can drive."
is confident Raikkonen would cope well with the transition from his
2009 season Ferrari F60 car to a four-wheel drive World Rally Car.
"This year I’ve driven a Formula 1 car and a Le Mans car and it’s the
same as rallying; you have to attack and push," explained Solberg. "You
have to be on the case and you need some balls. I think it’s all about
understanding how to push and Kimi has proved he can do that."
is widely expected to drive a Citroen C4 WRC in 2010, a car which –
along with the Ford Focus RS WRC – Solberg rates highly. "Both the C4
and the Ford work very well are quite easy to drive," he said. "They
are both consistent, predictable handling cars that do the correct
thing – just in slightly different ways. I think he could adapt very
quickly to either of them."
Asked what advice he would offer Raikkonen before his first stage, Solberg said: "Just nail it."