Where exactly Kimi Raikkonen will be next year has been a hotly debated topic for quite some time now, perhaps even since the end of last year when McLaren announced it had signed Fernando Alonso for 2007. The pairing of Raikkonen and Alonso might...
Where exactly Kimi Raikkonen will be next year has been a hotly debated topic for quite some time now, perhaps even since the end of last year when McLaren announced it had signed Fernando Alonso for 2007. The pairing of Raikkonen and Alonso might be McLaren's dream line-up for next season but it has never seemed very likely that the Finn will remain with the Woking squad.
He might yet but Raikkonen has been persistently linked with Ferrari and more recently with Renault. We all know how fickle the rumour mill can be but Renault chairman Alain Dassas has confirmed that the team wants Raikkonen.
"It is not a secret that we are talking with Raikkonen, he is a priority to us," Dassas said at a media lunch. "If we could come to an agreement we would be very satisfied because we would have signed one of the greatest drivers at the moment and apart from that he is still very young."
It would be an interesting scenario if Alonso and Raikkonen swapped seats, to see how they do in each other's cars. But what about this supposed Ferrari deal? From very early this season Raikkonen was rumoured to have signed some kind of pre-contract with the Italian stable.
As usual, nobody can really shed any light on it -- the inevitable 'sources' have been quoted but there's been nothing in the way of facts. The general consensus of opinion is that Raikkonen is waiting to see if Michael Schumacher will retire.
Well, aren't we all? Schumacher and Ferrari are currently back on form and the German doesn't look like a man who is about to call it quits. Indeed, speculation has it that Schumacher has already signed a new deal with Ferrari until the end of 2008.
The obvious question is whether Raikkonen would be willing to accept No.2 status to the former champion. Ferrari's devotion to Schumacher is evident and even with a talent like Raikkonen on board, the Scuderia is not likely to defer to anyone but Michael.
Given that scenario, it's understandable that Raikkonen is keeping his options open. Mercedes boss Norbert Haug claims that the Finn has not yet made his mind up about where he wants to be but McLaren has hardly set the world alight this season and a switch to Ferrari or Renault would seem more beneficial for Raikkonen.
And talking of McLaren, little rumours surfaced in France that Alonso is looking to see if he can wriggle out of his contract with the team in order to stay with Renault next season. It's all getting a bit Jenson Button, isn't it? Alonso has never done anything but defend his decision to move to McLaren, so where have these rumours come from?
Don't ask me, I don't have a clue. But they are out there -- Haug and McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh have strenuously denied them and pointedly talked about watertight contracts. Renault managing director Flavio Briatore plays devil's advocate and says it's nonsense but won't actually deny it either.
Certainly Alonso has frequently been questioned about his move to McLaren, given the Woking outfit's so far rather lacklustre season, but the reigning champion professes to be adamant that McLaren is the right way to go. One couldn't blame him for having doubts but Alonso seems set on his McLaren future.
So, what of McLaren's troubles right now? Dumping Juan Pablo Montoya made me outraged. The team said they were not party to Montoya's NASCAR decision and it was underhand. Like signing Alonso for next year was ever discussed with Montoya, or even Raikkonen? Pot, kettle and assorted other domestic appliances.
Ron Dennis doubted Montoya's commitment for the rest of the season once Juan Pablo made his NASCAR announcement. More pots and kettles -- since when did McLaren ever show any commitment to Montoya? After all the smug crowing once the team captured the Colombian, they basically ignored him.
Once Alonso's signing was a done deal, McLaren did nothing but spout about how they wanted to keep Raikkonen. Fair enough, if a team wants to keep a driver they have to wax lyrical. But how detrimental was that courting of Raikkonen to Montoya?
To be in a team that constantly loves-up your teammate has to be hard. Racing drivers are people, you know -- they get hurt and upset just as much as any of us. They're not super-human. Well, maybe Michael Schumacher is.
Much as I would love to hate McLaren forever, I can't. Believe me, I'm spitting with fury even as I write this at my perception of injustice that has been done to Montoya. By my view ain't the only view and McLaren has to do what it believes is right for the team. Hell, Juan Pablo is probably happy that he doesn't have to look at Ron's miserable face for the rest of the season.
So, where were we before I went off on a demented rant? Oh yeah, Kimi and Renault. It would be very interesting, if it ever happened. Will it happen? Your guess is as good as mine.