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Toyota covets signing Kubica, Raikkonen UPDATE #4 (GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen has dismissed reports that moving to Toyota is among his options for the 2010 season. The Finn, driving a Ferrari for the last time this weekend in Abu Dhabi, has also been talking with McLaren but insists he has other options, including a full time switch to rallying or a sabbatical.

"I can (have a year off) if I want," said the 30-year-old, also admitting that rallying is "definitely" another serious option. It is not just formula one or rallying.  There are other things I could do and we will see what happens," Raikkonen added.

The sticking point with McLaren seems to be money, after Toyota's John Howett recently said the Japanese team was not willing to increase its financial offer to the 2007 world champion.

But Raikkonen denies Toyota was ever a serious option.

"Toyota has not even been discussed," he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.  "If I want to drive (F1) cars, then McLaren is the only option.  I should know the situation in the next few days."

Money aside, another essential element of a deal is permission to do more rallying.  When he drove for McLaren between 2002 and 2006, the Finn's contract disallowed dangerous outside activities.

"It's not going to hurt you.  Any kind of driving is always going to give you some experience, so I don't see what's the issue.  It's going to be in the contract that I'm allowed to do it," Raikkonen insisted.

10/20/09 Toyota has offered Kimi Raikkonen a contract for next season, team president John Howett has confirmed.

The Cologne-based squad is chasing a big-name driver as it awaits the Japanese parent company’s decision on its Formula 1 future, and having missed out on the chance to sign Robert Kubica – who is bound for Renault in 2010 – has identified Raikkonen as its main target.

The 2007 world champion, who has agreed to leave Ferrari one year before the end of his contract to make way for Fernando Alonso, has also been strongly linked with a return to McLaren.

Howett told Reuters that Toyota had made Raikkonen a firm offer but admitted the Finn’s management is pushing for a higher salary.

“We don't play too many games. We put on the table what we can afford and what we think is a serious offer in the current market,” said Howett.  itv-f1.com

“I think genuinely we could work well with him, give him a car that’s quick.”

A return to McLaren is thought the most likely outcome for Raikkonen, but Howett hinted that Toyota would be more tolerant of the party-loving 30-year-old’s lifestyle than the straight-laced Woking team, which sometimes struggled to keep him on a tight rein during his last stint there.

“We have had very good relationships with Scandinavian drivers in the rallying times that enjoy life and it works very well, so we could cope with it as a team,” he said.

Toyota still has both Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock under contract for 2010, but Howett has indicated in various recent comments that it is unlikely to retain Trulli.

The Italian veteran says he has promised team principal Tadashi Yamashina that he will not sign with another team before mid-November, “which is when Toyota will decide its own future in F1”, but – in an apparent reference to Howett – adds that “there is someone who wants to denigrate me through the media”.

Howett admits that Toyota and Trulli do not see eye-to-eye on the terms of a 2010 contract, although he denied this was largely a question of money.

“With both drivers we are still maintaining a degree of discussion,” he said.

“We have put an offer on the table with Jarno, [and] I think that he himself is not dissatisfied with the financial offer.

“The bottom line to some extent is certain issues on the contract and I don't think they are negotiable from our side.

“He may well be in the car next year but it's not at all clear.”

Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi drew praise from Yamashina for his feisty grand prix debut in Brazil (where he was substituting for the injured Glock), but Howett suggested he didn’t show the raw pace to make him a leading candidate for a 2010 drive.

“He was a bit off the pace overall but it was very impressive,” he said.

“You have to say we have to give him serious consideration but still pace-wise he was a bit slow so we have to see.”

10/04/09 Toyota has probably failed in its bid to sign Robert Kubica for next season, according to team president John Howett. Kubica is now expected to join Renault.

"It looks like we have probably lost Robert, so we need to look next week and really see what we finally do," Howett told the BBC.

"Regarding Trulli we will have to wait and see. He did a great job, but we have to look at the total season and really reconsider. It is probably less likely, but I don't think we can exclude anything.

"It really depends which way the market moves in the next couple of weeks and if somebody else arrives and we consider them a better option, we have to take them.

"Jarno did a great job here today, but we still need a little bit more for the number one."

10/02/09 (GMM)  The bosses of the Renault and Toyota teams on Friday confirmed their tussle to sign up Robert Kubica for the 2010 season.

It had been believed that the Pole would be revealed next week as Fernando Alonso's replacement at Renault, but at Suzuka it emerged that Toyota is also pushing to sign the 24-year-old.

"I guess we are probably fighting with our friends here on the right," said Toyota's John Howett in a news conference, also attended by Renault's acting team boss Bob Bell. zzzz

Asked who has the best chance of winning the scrap for Kubica, Bell added: "I think I will say we have and John will say he has, so I think we will let history determine that one."

10/02/09 (GMM)  Robert Kubica has emerged as a leading candidate to switch to Toyota next year, and team president John Howett also admitted at Suzuka that he would happily sign Kimi Raikkonen.

Raikkonen, however, is expected to switch to McLaren, and it was strongly believed that Kubica was set to be confirmed next week as Renault's new driver for 2010.

But Pole Kubica's manager Daniele Morelli was photographed meeting with Howett at Suzuka on Friday morning, and Howett later told reporters: "We know who we would like in the car and we are working hard on it."

He also admitted that Toyota has "always expressed interest in Kimi".

Toyota for now is holding off re-signing Timo Glock or Jarno Trulli for next season, and it was suggested that this may have something to do with the uncertainty about the Cologne based team's future.

But Howett, hinting that Trulli will almost certainly leave the team, confirmed that Toyota is seriously looking at installing a completely fresh lineup.

"We want the options as we think there could be quite a big movement in the driver market," said the Briton, who said top drivers would be "stupid" not to consider Toyota as an option for 2010 and beyond.

"He (Glock) did a fantastic job in Singapore (finishing second) and we are talking to him, but honestly speaking we feel that could have been the result in other races if we could qualify in that position.

"I am sorry, it is a very tough life, and our job is to deliver results," Howett added.  "We have a car that is more regularly capable of being on the podium and much closer to the top this year.  We are not delivering, and there are things beyond the team and the chassis itself.

"We need to keep all our options open, and to be able to catch somebody if the opportunity comes, we need two seats available."

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