Raikkonen to return to F1? UPDATE #12 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - Raikkonen is back to F1, but in a surprise announcement with Lotus Renault.
11/23/11 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. Kimi Raikkonen's chances of returning to formula one next year with Williams seem to have receded.
|Kimi Raikkonen back in F1 with Williams, but wants ownership stake|
The Italian magazine Autosprint reports that the 2007 world champion's prospective sponsors may have withdrawn their interest, leaving fellow Finn and rookie Valtteri Bottas at the top of the candidates list now.
German commentator and former F1 driver Christian Danner would not mind if Raikkonen's comeback attempt fails.
"Quite simply, he was already past his best when he stopped," he told German broadcaster RTL, referring to Raikkonen's departure from Ferrari in 2009.
Swiss commentator Marc Surer agrees: "Whenever I think about Kimi I always worry about his motivation.
"His rallying did not bring him the desired result so he tries formula one again?
"I think he would fit well with Williams, who have the motto that the driver drives and the team worries about the technology.
"But he would be only in the midfield," he told Germany's T-Online. "I would rather see a hungry, young driver there."
A current competitor of Raikkonen's, Mikko Hirvonen, hopes the 32-year-old stays in the world rally championship.
"Two years is not enough to get the experience you need," he is quoted by World Rally Radio. "The last rally of the season was not so good but (if Raikkonen stays in 2012) it would be good for the world of rallying."
Typically, Raikkonen himself is giving nothing away.
"What happens in the future is still an open question," said the winner of 18 grands prix.11/18/11 (GMM) According to Bild newspaper, the only missing piece in Kimi Raikkonen's return to F1 with Williams in 2012 is an official announcement.
The German newspaper said a media statement could be forthcoming from the British team this week, which was pleasing news for his friend Sebastian Vettel.
"He is a sensationally good racer and it would be great if he is coming back," said the back to back world champion.
As ever in formula one, however, there is more to the story.
"The Raikkonen case is complicated," agreed Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
The report said Raikkonen, 32, wants to return not only as a driver but also a co-owner of Williams' Oxfordshire based team.
"Standing behind Raikkonen are wealthy businessmen, apparently from the Middle East," said Auto Motor und Sport, revealing that the Raikkonen consortium is eyeing up to 20 per cent of the famous British marque.
Raikkonen co-owned a formula 3 team with his managers David and Steve Robertson between 2004 and last year.
Williams, however, might not be interested, with the report saying Raikkonen could also be eyeing a similar deal with Renault, the Genii-owned team that next year will become Lotus.11/14/11 (GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has taken yet another step towards signing with the Williams team for 2012.
At the end of an intense weekend of speculation regarding the 2007 world champion's possible return to formula one, Finn Raikkonen's managers duly appeared in the Abu Dhabi paddock.
The appearance of managers Steve and David Robertson was all the more notable given Raikkonen's participation thousands of miles away in the Welsh rally.
And Turun Sanomat newspaper reports that they watched the grand prix from within Williams' hospitality area.
The signs are growing stronger every day that 32-year-old Raikkonen is definitely motivated to return to the sport that gave him 18 wins between 2001 and 2009.
Sir Frank Williams finally confirmed to the Finnish broadcaster MTV3 on Sunday that his Oxfordshire based team "has strong interest" in housing Raikkonen next year.
"Obviously, anyone worth his salt in any business will argue about the price of things," he grinned, "so there is an argument going on, which of course is quite normal.
"I must choose my words carefully by saying only that it (Raikkonen coming to Williams) is possible."
And team co-founder Patrick Head confirmed in Abu Dhabi that Williams' interest in the former McLaren and Ferrari driver is not new.
"We were interested in Kimi when he drove for Sauber," the Briton is quoted as saying. "We proposed to our then partner BMW to make him an offer but they thought it was too much money."11/04/11 Word that Kimi Raikkonen is returning to Formula 1 in 2012 has picked up on Friday, with rumors circulating that the Finn has received backing from Qatar with a view to making a comeback with Williams. The latest reports remain sketchy albeit somewhat more plausible, with it being believed by some in the F1 community that Raikkonen has struck a deal with a consortium in Qatar, where a Williams technology centre is based.
11/03/11 (GMM) David Coulthard thinks it is possible Ferrari will soon oust Felipe Massa. Despite Brazilian Massa having a contract for 2012, recent speculation has linked the race seat alongside Fernando Alonso next year with Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.
"In formula one, anything's possible," said former grand prix winner and now British pundit Coulthard, appearing on Austrian television Servus TV.
"I've learned that in my 17 years (in F1)," he added.
Coulthard said that when it comes to one of the most coveted seats in the sport, only performance matters.
"He's a very nice, likeable guy who drives with his heart," said the Scot. "But he no longer shows the sort of performance he did before his accident in Hungary (2009).
"Ferrari probably have no choice but to look for another driver."
Coulthard agreed that, in India last weekend where Massa clashed again with Lewis Hamilton and twice broke his suspension over curbs, the 30-year-old seemed to be buckling under the pressure of his situation.
"In formula one you're always under pressure," he insisted.
"Even Sebastian Vettel is under pressure, just a different sort. Massa may know that his formula one career is slowly coming to an end. With these results, he will not be at Ferrari for many more years.
"Ferrari will be looking seriously at the two drivers it has and deciding what is the strongest possible package they can have for 2012," added Coulthard.11/03/11 (GMM) Williams is almost ready to announce Kimi Raikkonen's return to formula one for 2012, according to media reports.
"(The) Raikkonen (agreement) is almost there," a source inside the famous British team is quoted by FAZ newspaper.
Italy's Autosprint reports that the funding is coming from Qatar.
Williams on Wednesday hinted at the deal by revealing that a memorandum of understanding with Mowasalat, a Qatari company, was signed in Doha for the use of the team's simulator technology.
"The funding for the 'Iceman' is coming from the heat of Qatar," said the Italian magazine.
The Finnish broadcaster MTV3 said the sponsorship of a Qatar bank is the next step.
That will validate a contract that Raikkonen, 32, reportedly signed recently "and the announcement will be made in Abu Dhabi" next weekend.
The Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell said the 2007 world champion is Williams' "first choice" to be Pastor Maldonado's new teammate.
"He (Raikkonen) has been at Grove several times for talks," the report added.10/30/11 (GMM) If Kimi Raikkonen does return to formula one, it won't be because he admires the sport's headline-writers. Speculation is growing by the day that the 2007 world champion could return from his world rally and NASCAR experiment with the Williams team in 2012.
As for the specialist media, however, the notoriously reticent 32-year-old prefers rally.
"I have the feeling that the rally press is more interested in the discipline, and what is happening on the stages, rather than the F1 journalists who write c*** to make headlines," Raikkonen is quoted by autohebdo.fr.
Where previously there was skepticism, however, there is a growing feeling in the formula one paddock that the Raikkonen rumors are real.
"I believe it could happen," Felipe Massa, who paired with the Finn at Ferrari between 2007 and 2009, told Turun Sanomat newspaper in India.
Others are not skeptical that Raikkonen might return, but concerned that he will struggle even more than Michael Schumacher has during his own comeback.
"Michael has had quite a difficult time. You have to remember that when he left Michael had a much more competitive car than when he came back.
"Perhaps it would be the same for Kimi," said Massa. "But anyway, Kimi is still young so in that sense the two-year absence is not very significant.
"When you are young, if you want to do something and you train hard enough, it is not impossible to have the same performance as you did before," added Massa.10/28/11 Adam Parr, Chairman of Williams F1 has refused to speculate on the strong rumors that World Champion Kimi Raikkonen will be returning from WRC to join the team next year.
In the wake of growing reports circulating about an imminent deal involving the popular Finn and a big Qatari sponsorship deal, Parr said during the FIA press conference at Buddh International Circuit: “I am afraid there is only one answer to that question, which is that our race drivers are Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello and if, and when, that changes we will make an appropriate announcement.”
09/24/11 (GMM) Reports are gathering steam that Kimi Raikkonen is seriously considering a return to formula one in 2012 with Williams.
In the Singapore paddock, it is now an established fact that the 2007 world champion - and recent world rally and Nascar driver - was given a detailed tour of the famous team's Grove headquarters by Adam Parr.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the visit took place on the Wednesday before Monza. Chairman Parr is not in Singapore this weekend.
The magazine is however skeptical about Williams' motives: "Raikkonen could be used as leverage for other interested parties," said the report.
"It could drag another one or two million from their sponsors."
31-year-old Raikkonen, on the other hand, is apparently serious. "He wants to return to the tracks. And he does not want to put more of his own money into his racing," said Auto Motor und Sport.
Also reportedly in the running for the 2012 seat alongside Pastor Maldonado are Adrian Sutil, Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde, Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean.
Auto Motor und Sport insists that, despite the German's categorical denial, Sutil made a low profile visit to Williams late on the Wednesday before Monza.
It would be good news for Nico Hulkenberg, who after losing his Williams seat in 2010 would almost certainly fill Sutil's place at Force India.
"There's a lot of talk and rumors but I just try to concentrate on myself, do my best and watch what happens," reserve driver Hulkenberg told the Today newspaper in Singapore.
09/23/11 (GMM) Adrian Sutil has categorically denied recently visiting the Williams factory. But the Force India driver admitted to Auto Motor und Sport in Singapore that, when he read the pages of speculation about his future last week, even he had to make efforts to verify the stories.
"It's just rumors," said Sutil, "but I read them too and called my manager. He told me that there is no contact with Williams."
It is an uncomfortable situation for the experienced 28-year-old, despite the fact his personal sponsors Medion and Capri-Sonne can offer some money to his employer.
According to the paddock grapevine, Force India boss Vijay Mallya would probably prefer to pair Paul di Resta with Nico Hulkenberg next year, and that is why the Indian billionaire is delaying his decision until December.
"I have no other choice than to drive as well as possible to the end of the season and hope that I get a contract either here or somewhere else," said Sutil.
By mid December, his contract option for 2012 will have expired and the German may have fled to another team.
Even rookie di Resta, however, sounds frustrated. "It is useless to get upset about it," said the Scot, admitting he would like Mallya to make an earlier call.
At Williams, Venezuela-backed Pastor Maldonado is secure while Rubens Barrichello is sitting tight as the British team reportedly looks around for a suitable pay-driver.
Confusing, then, are the reports that insist the normally highly-paid Kimi Raikkonen really did visit the Grove factory recently and is seriously in the running for Barrichello's seat.
"Right now is a big time for rumors," Barrichello told reporters on Thursday, "and there is no point adding to them."
Predictably, 2007 world champion Raikkonen - a former race winner for McLaren and Ferrari until two years ago - is saying little.
"I have no plans for next year," the Finn is quoted as saying by Spain's Diario Sport. "There are many reasons why I quit formula one and I always said I don't know if it's forever.
"I never make plans for the next year before January, so I will have to see what will happen."09/21/11 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. Kimi Raikkonen's plans for 2012 do not include formula one, according to the Finnish evening daily Ilta-Sanomat.
The report follows speculation the 2007 world champion - who left the sport at the end of 2009 to begin his forays in world rallying, NASCAR and Le Mans sportscars - recently visited the headquarters of famous British team Williams.
"Yes, Kimi Raikkonen visited the Williams factory", Ilta-Sanomat confirmed, "but that (a return to F1) is not the way forward" for the 31-year-old Finn.
The report said 18-time grand prix winner Raikkonen, who between 2002 and 2009 drove for frontrunners McLaren and Ferrari, is "convinced that his time at the pinnacle of motor sport came to an end when he left Ferrari".
Ilta-Sanomat said Raikkonen "wants to be in world rally, the legendary Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, and the 24 hours of Le Mans" next year.09/16/11 (GMM) The rumor mill is rumbling on Friday with the news Kimi Raikkonen made a visit to F1 team Williams' Oxfordshire factory.
The sport10.at (Austria) and plaza.fi (Finland) websites said the famous British team had confirmed the 2007 world champion was given a tour.
Reports said it was Adam Parr who showed world rally driver and former Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari driver Raikkonen, 31, around the Grove facility.
The Finnish broadcaster MTV3 also reported the news and said Williams had confirmed Raikkonen's visit indeed took place last week.
The reports said Raikkonen's visit was for "personal reasons", but speculation that he might one day return to formula one has been circulating ever since he left the sport at the end of 2009.
Williams' Pastor Maldonado is regarded as having a solid seat but the Venezuelan rookie's teammate Rubens Barrichello is still seeking a deal for 2012.
"We are talking day by day so we just need to see," Brazilian veteran Barrichello told The Sun newspaper at Monza.
"I wish we had done a deal already but it's taking a little longer. The team is taking everything into account and they know what I can offer," he said.