Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Keeping a distance: Raikkonen rules out Renault
Former F1 Champion Kimi Raikkonen's decision not to return to F1 with Renault for next season can be seen in quite a few different ways: a driver too big for his boots, or a team fabricating lies and rumours for publicity's sake, whatever floats your boat.
Raikkonen's season with Citroen in the WRC has been no great shakes, so to speak, with the odd heavy crash mingling in with some rather frequent but hardly inspiring points finishes. So why stay there?
Enthusiasm, really: there's no other real reason for it, although his form has improved markedly over the year, it's still unlikely that he would continue as a rally driver for the rest of his career, even with the chance to become the first man to achieve a rallying and F1 double header, how long away that is. For a man used to winning, it could only be seen as a setback, but with his interest for the sport growing race on race, the urge for single-seater racing could diminish rapidly.
Which brings us neatly onto the Renault situation, where the official lines from the team were that the Finn had been in talks with the team to race alongside Robert Kubica next season. Raikkonen called bullshit on these claims pretty quickly, describing them as publicity-boosting material. It smacks a lot of desperation from the team: although their second driver Vitaly Petrov has shown flashes of brilliance this season his unpredictability had made him a sitting duck for a removal. With the chances of Raikkonen joining the team gone so publicly, it's not only clear that Petrov would have been second choice anyway, but the lack of support from his own team will be extremely telling. For somebody who has an obvious knack for driving, as Petrov has and has shown several times this season, it's quite shocking treatment, and something which will need to be sorted out by the beginning of next year. A poor showing overall from the team.
As for Raikkonen, the urge to turn down Renault could have been motivated by quite a few factors: first of all, money. With one of the biggest salaries in the whole of motorsport, maybe even sport as a whole, it's hard to see him moving back to a team which obviously doesn't have the right amount of funds or backing, such as Renault. It also could relate to a problem of competitiveness: having already turned down an offer from the now-defunct Toyota to drive for them this season as they weren't championship potential, the same could be applied in this situation too. If so, it could be seen as a somewhat snobbish outlook: despite spending most of his career with two top teams in McLaren and Ferrari, and having some of the best skills in the business, he still came up rather short on many people's expectations, and in doing so made himself look somewhat unconcerned with the sport as a whole. Even in his rallying career, his role at Citroen has made him one of the most high-profile names in the sport, but with a depressing lack of humility.
Overall this story has seemed to backfire on Renault more than most, but it's hard to see any good coming out of this at all on either side. Unless you're a certain Russian driver, of course.