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2014: What will Kimi do next?

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Summer is here and things are heating up on and off-track. We are in the midst of contract-season, where team-driver rumours fly left, right and centre. For most at least. But what about Kimi? His two-year Lotus contract ends after this season and Red Bull are in the hunt for the Iceman. Kimi only has two logical options – either to stick it out with Lotus or join Red Bull alongside Sebastian Vettel. Kimi is centre-piece on this game of chess.

The Motivation

Given his successful comeback to F1 after running wild in other forms of motorsport and maintaining fitness, Kimi is as sharp as ever. He is as hungry as ever. If not more. He didn’t just leave F1 and go fishing. He was sick of it, took a break and returned. Those greeny-blue eyes have a steely determination to win, but he isn’t blinded by glory. Sounds like an oxymoron perhaps, maybe he is the oxymoron of F1 drivers, but he isn’t in F1 to prove anything – not going crazy after a win doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t passionate:

Kimi Raikkonen: “It’s not my style. Yeah, winning feels good, but I’m not the type of guy who jumps up and down and rubs it in everyone’s face”

After winning the Abu Dhabi GP in his comeback year, Kimi revealed he always believed in himself and it was others who doubted him. He loves racing and being away from F1 echoed that sentiment, thus the Iceman returned. Part of Kimi’s success at Lotus is his communication with Mark Slade. Slade was Kimi’s engineer during his five-year run at McLaren, after Kimi joined Ferrari Slade later went on to Mercedes. Kimi asked Slade specifically to join Lotus and work with him once again – which indicates Kimi’s strong will to get the best of what’s possible.

Lotus aren’t as competitive financially as say Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren. Lotus also had to bid farewell to technical director James Allison a few races into this season. Kimi’s teammate Grosjean has also been lacking in producing good results, affecting the Constructors championship. Things haven’t been looking good for the title fight for the Enstone camp, despite Kimi’s strong opening victory at Australia followed by consecutive podium finishes. Things began looking even worse after Kimi’s good run of results ended, losing ground in the championship to Vettel and Alonso at Monaco and Canada. Despite still finishing those races and equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of consecutive point finishes, Kimi is clearly frustrated. He has vented out his anger on over-aggressive drivers like Perez (there’s a fine line between fair racing and just plain cockiness.) But this outburst displays fire within the Iceman, which he has previously kept well hidden behind his monotone voice and monochrome shades. It’s safe to say he is hungrier than ever, even before winning his first title at Ferrari in 2007 (here’s Kimi’s response to those who think otherwise). Kimi is here to win the world championship again.

Putting Plan to Practice

Is teaming up with Vettel at Red Bull the best way to do this? Red Bull have been winning the last three years, they have the design wizard Adrian Newey, and Vettel has just re-signed for one more year. The key factor then must be whether Kimi and Vettel will be a productive pairing? Kimi is naturally a non-political person and driver. He doesn’t mind who his teammate is, he isn’t personal like that. Kimi and Vettel are good friends off-track too. But on the race track, Vettel suffers no one and it’s this attitude that may cause conflict. Not to mention how Red Bull’s motorsport adviser Helmut Marko’s (who is the right-hand man in F1 of the company’s boss Dietrich Mateschitz) relationship with Mark Webber has gone down. Red Bull’s ‘cool’ and laid-back ethos may appear to look different from other teams but it would be foolish to judge a book by it’s cover. Being the only logical option however, a switch from Lotus to red Bull will be attractive to Kimi. Apparently he has begun preliminary contract talks with Red Bull recently:

Kimi Räikkönen has stated officially that he has nothing to comment about possible Red Bull -negotiations. According to sources close to Red Bull who want to stay anonymous, Räikkönen has started preliminary negotiations with the team. The biggest obstacle is of course money, although Red Bull is willing to pay a bigger salary to Kimi than he gets from Lotus at this moment.

Red Bull has announced that Mark Webber is one of the team’s options for next season, but in reality the team has known about Webber’s departure for a few months already. Next year Webber will drive sportcars.

The financial situation in Lotus is on a shaky ground and the team can’t necessarily afford to pay Kimi’s salary. That’s why Kimi wants to ensure he gets a top contract as soon as possible.

With the lack of money being the issue here, to fund the team’s development and resources, Lotus risk losing Kimi. But we know Kimi isn’t tempted for just a bigger salary:

Kimi Raikkonen: “About the future, I am clear. I want to work with a good team and sit in a good car. Red Bull is a good team, they have been world champions and won everything in the past years. Basically, there are not many top teams to think about. With Lotus, we are not yet where Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull are.”

“Do you really think I would be here if it was just about money? I do enough fun things in my spare time than to have to listen to this bullshit. And I’m not exactly broke.”

If Kimi joins Red Bull, will he be up to speed quick enough starting from scratch with a new car, new engineers all over again? Kimi is driving superbly at Lotus, but the car is restraining him from better results. Much like how it was at McLaren, where poor reliability cost him two championships. Kimi doesn’t want to suffer five years like that again. So he will be looking elsewhere, it’s inevitable and the probability of him signing at Red Bull is very high:

The F1 driver market is waiting for Kimi Raikkonen’s next move, according to Oskari Saari, a commentator for Finnish television MTV3.

“Red Bull’s Helmut Marko said in Canada that driver decisions will be made in August, during the summer break,” Saari said.

It is strongly rumoured that Lotus’ Raikkonen, having firmly re-established his reputation in the wake of a rallying sabbatical, is now likely to return to a true top team in 2014 to replace Mark Webber.

Saari said he thinks Raikkonen is a better candidate than Red Bull’s youngsters at Toro Rosso, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

“They’re good guys, but not quite good enough,” he insisted.

“I think the probability of Kimi going to Red Bull is very high — it would be a logical move,” added Saari.

Saari also repeated rumours that Lotus might look to Williams’ Pastor Maldonado and his PDVSA sponsor millions to replace Raikkonen.

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Turn of the tide?

Just when contract talks are getting underway, Lotus announce that its owner, Genii Capital, has sold a 35 per cent stake in the business to Infinity Racing Partners. This is good news for the team and it is also no doubt an attempt to retain Kimi. It has been reported since the new investors that Lotus are offering Kimi a ‘giant’ contract.

Amongst the investors is Mansoor Ijaz (pictured), a US investment banker and sometime media pundit, who is the founder and chairman of New York-based investment firm Crescent Investment Management. He boldly claims Lotus will be the sport’s top team in 12 months time but makes a good point about who is the best driver and why they are even more the driving force of a team’s success:

Mansoor Ijaz: “Next year, when there is a change in the way the races will be run, there’s a lot of opportunity going forward to differentiate one car from another technologically. Today the cars all have fixed parameters around them – there are simply things you cannot change – and then it becomes about who’s the best driver. We have really great drivers. In Kimi we have, in my view, the best in motorsports and he’s a fraction shy of getting to that very top spot. We’ve got terrific support team and staff around, so now it’s a matter of trying to make sure we get a differential advantage and that’s where we’re going to try and make our difference going forward.”

In 2012, Lotus had given Kimi the opportunity to come back and race and win – they have a good base car and it’s strong however they suffer massively in the development race during the summer – thus lack momentum. But more importantly for Kimi, Lotus have embraced the enigma that is Iceman and give Kimi his space in which he has been able to lead the team just by his performances alone. After the Ferrari-Santander-Alonso saga, Kimi will want to steer clear of any bullsh*t politics and sponsor-influenced driver pairings. Personally, I think Kimi has his own brand, he doesn’t need to join Red Bull because he suits their brand, it’s just a superficial distraction and Kimi goes deeper than that. He is very grateful for the atmosphere at Lotus and after this new investment with Infinity Racing he may reconsider sticking with Lotus and continue to build the next layer of bricks on a new legacy that he had begun last year. Whether this means more to him than just a fast car, we have to wait and see..

Words by Evenstar Saima.

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17 responses

  1. Alex

    Nicely done Saima..let’s wait & see

    Like

    June 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    • Roger

      I wish Kimi all the best since he have always been my favorite driver since Mika left
      I am pretty sure that we will see Kimi in a RedBull next year

      Like

      June 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm

  2. leonardo

    Absolutely brilliant post Saima! Must be the best one I’ve read here; informative and thought-provoking!

    However, I still believe that Kimi will join Red Bull next season, provided Webber vacates his seat.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or F1 driver) to see that Raikkonen is one of the most talented – if not the best – driver in the sport right now (remember the last few laps of Monaco 2013?). It is Lotus that is clearly his Achilles heal, and that will lead to his ultimate departure from the team in 2014. Without the funds it clearly needs for development, the car will be unable to be competitive on any scale.

    Having said that, perhaps Lotus should also not have given him so much ‘space’ either by allowing him, and us, to believe – quite wrongly – that his driving could make a difference to a very mediocre car.

    Like

    June 21, 2013 at 8:46 am

    • Good point Leonardo, maybe Lotus have taken Kimi’s talent for granted slightly (especially on the tyre strategies – 1 stop in Canada was a huge mistake) but I think they really do lack performance mainly because of financial reasons. The rest of this season is crucial and will show how determined they are to give Kimi the best option for 2014, by improving the current car into a winning car again. They’ve got the investors now, so no excuses.

      Like

      June 21, 2013 at 10:00 am

  3. Rudhi

    Woow, thats good job Saima! Personally i think Kimi will be a Red Bull driver next year. I’m not sure Kimi will still be in F1 in 2016 n it would be a surprise that he didn’t seize the opportuniy of being in a top team like Red Bull n trying to clinch another WC. However it won’t be easy in Red Bull, Vettel would be hard to beat n i think he would be Kimi’s toughest team mate ever had. Similarly we would know the real level of Vettel if Kimi switch to R.Bull. Certainly the best team line up. As for the other drivers chasing Webber’s seat, there is only Vergne in my opinion. Ricciardo should feel lucky that he’s in F1, so there’s only Vergne left, he’s a good n promising driver but there should be no hesitation when R.Bull would make their choice. However it all depends on Kimi’s willingness. He’s a unique character n he’s quite unpredictable. I nearly forget, its better that Eric Bouiller drive the car instead of hiring Maldonado, he’s one among many drivers on the grid who are not good enough to race in F1.

    Like

    June 21, 2013 at 8:53 am

    • Haha, I know, I can’t believe that rumour of Maldonado replacing Kimi to partner Grosjean. Two crash-prone drivers at Lotus? I don’t think they’ll do that lol They need stability and a driver who can lead by performances.

      Like

      June 21, 2013 at 10:02 am

  4. C Lin

    Its a no brainer, Kimi to RedBull.

    Like

    June 21, 2013 at 9:45 am

    • I like your confidence! lol 10+ years as a Kimi fan and I still can’t figure him out, as Rudhi said, sooooo unpredictable, but we love that!

      Like

      June 21, 2013 at 10:02 am

  5. Lotus F1 Team wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t Kimi. Who knows how the other drivers in that Lotus seat would have performed. In my opinion, Kimi is Lotus. Grosjean is Crashjean again and again. He is even worse than last year. They are the team that actually have probably the worst and the best drivers at the same time! Yes, that team’s atmosphere suits Kimi and that is plus sign, but he was pretty damn fast in McLaren and also in Ferrari until they started to favorite Massa from 1/3rd of 2008. season.
    Regarding the new engineers… it won’t be a problem at all. He knows Newey from McLaren, also Kimi would 100% bring with him again Mark Slade. So, no problem. My vote is still for Red Bull. Selling the team is not a solution at all. They still don’t have title sponsor. I really hoped it was going to happen after Australia win, but they dubbed their chances.

    Like

    June 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

  6. While most F1 fans parade with team merchandise they fancied. Kimi’s goes pretty casual & laidback, always the Finnish blue & flags… a cult following (big or small) never play for team(s); if you know what I mean. Wherever he goes we follow… well, at least, my entire family. He knows best; like always, he’ll have our support thru wins and tough times.

    Like

    June 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm

  7. Lotus press release: http://www.lotusf1team.com/to-infinity-and-beyond.html

    Like

    June 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    • TM

      Thanks for a well written article on Kimi 2014 possibilities, Saima. Perhaps Lotus’ new investment injection is the whole reason to keep Kimi on for 2014 & beyond. Personally, I prefer Kimi to stay at Lotus instead of riding the success of what is after all, a stimulant drinks company.
      Love the fact that Kimi’s stock is all time high again, proving all those doubters wrong once more.

      Like

      June 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

  8. Cab

    Kimi must make a move to Redbull if he is ready for the real challenge. I am sure Kimi can match and out perform Vettel. It may take some time for him to adjust to the new car. But once he does, Kimi will be unstoppable. I strongly believes Kimi is quicker than ever before. Come on Kimi.. Where ever you go, your fans will follow you..

    Like

    July 14, 2013 at 4:45 am

  9. Sundar

    Good read .. very nicely done .. :))

    when will it be finalized regarding kimi move .. i heard rumours like a deal done with Ferrari is that true .. ??

    Like

    August 4, 2013 at 11:26 pm

  10. Pasi

    Well Kimi is the last champion with Ferrari… Alonso is incompetent. Maybe they should hire Kimi.

    Like

    August 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm

  11. Mattias

    You know he’s not a particularly skilled driver when the banners on his fans’ site are quotes with things like “Leave me alone”, “Shite” and “I don’t care”. A PR product and not much more, I’m afraid.

    Like

    August 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    • Lol…. He’s one of the most skilled drivers out there with his results speaking for themselves – just because his fans (and non-fans actually) embrace his character and he is one of a kind – thats why he’s popular in the PR department too.

      Like

      August 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

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