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Unravelling Raikkonen and the rumours

NEWS STORY
31/10/2011

Mat Coch writes:

There have been a lot of wild suggestions flying around lately, and it stands to reason. We're fast approaching the end of the season and with it the silly season also. Traditionally it tends to get going around the time of the Italian Grand Prix, though in recent years it has started as early as Silverstone, as excitable journalists begin speculating the future landscape of Formula One, often coming up with especially creative proposals.

One such idea this year is that Kimi Raikkonen will be behind the wheel of a Williams when the lights go out at the start of the 2012 season. It seems an extraordinary claim, yet is strangely in-keeping with the spirit of the silly-season (which has previously seen the likes of Jacques Villeneuve associated with just about every team on the grid). The Raikkonen story has some legs though, fuelled by the supposed visit the Finn paid to the team's Grove base and for one reason or another just doesn't seem to want to go away.

Of course the team hasn't enjoyed a good year, or a good couple of years come to that, and is now looking dangerously similar to Lotus (the original rather than the current garden varieties) and Brabham. It may claim otherwise but it is in need of money, with Pastor Maldonado's performance barely masking the fact the team hired the Venezuelan for his pocket book. There are other business being launched to supplement the company's income, but it's no secret the Grove team isn't as flush as the likes of McLaren.

Also on the books, though on the other side of the ledger, is Rubens Barrichello. The plucky Brazilian has been an ever-present in the sport since 1993 and holds all the records when it comes to the number of races started. Only Michael Schumacher can beat him in terms of career length, but he went swimming for a couple years in the middle there. So Barrichello is immensely experienced, and given the team is loitering around the wrong end of the grid it seems logical that the team uses that knowledge to help rebuild. That all makes sense - one driver bringing in some money to help finance the team a more experienced, senior driver helping push the team back towards the front end. The problem for Barrichello however is experience isn't the be-all and end-all, and there are other drivers around who have good levels of experience, with reasonable quantities of talent mixed with a tidy helping of sponsorship backing.

One of those is Adrian Sutil, the Force India driver who seems on the way out of the team he's led since 2007. It seems the worst kept secret in Formula One that the German is out of a drive next year, the team having allegedly already signed Nico Hulkenberg alongside the impressive Paul di Resta. Our sources have confirmed as much, and while Sutil appears defiant every indication suggests otherwise. In the lead up to the Singapore Grand Prix there were suggestions Sutil had visited Williams teams factory, which were denied at the time. Pitpass however has received information which totally contradicts the denials: "He was there," our informed source told us. "He was f*****g there!" Just why Sutil has chosen to deny the claims poses an interesting question.

There's no doubt Force India, at the moment, is the more competitive package. Any driver worth his salt will chase the fastest drive available and that, to Sutil, would appear to be his current seat. However with Force India having recently taken on fresh investment - something one suspects has been in the pipeline for some time, and possibly used at the bargaining table in discussions for next year - the investment Sutil brings in from Medion is suddenly less important.

While it may seem unimportant now, Medion may prove to be an important link between Sutil and Williams for a number of reasons. Believed to bringing in $5million the funds would certainly help the struggling team. Interestingly the computer company has recently been bought out by former Williams backer Lenovo, and while it no longer has any ties to the team - it's a partner with McLaren now - it provides an interesting link. Lenovo built Williams supercomputer in 2007.

Back to Raikkonen, though. The 2007 world champion has spent the last few years trying his hand at most things on four wheels, and if truth be told, without a great deal of success - certainly not when compared to his Formula One career. He was linked with Renault when Robert Kubica was injured at the start of the year, however for one reason or another that fell through. Now of course there is this persistent rumour linking the 'Ice Man' with Williams, but you've got to wonder - if Renault couldn't seal a deal, why should Williams? More to the point, if Raikkonen wasn't interested in a Renault drive, why would he be interested in a less competitive team unless he's now decided he wants to be in Formula One no matter what?

There is still potentially a seat at Renault should he want to be back on the grid in 2012, and no doubt other teams would look to make space for him. There seems no definable reason why Raikkonen would go to Williams beyond convenience, and that seldom has any place in Formula One.

The problem however is the Finn doesn't seem committed. He's dabbled in rallying and NASCAR though neither with the determination and single-mindedness one would expect from a Formula One world champion. His penchant for the finer things in life is well known - he's raced in a number of events under the pseudonym James Hunt more than once - and has been one of the sports wilder personalities throughout his career.

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