Where will Kimi be in 2010?
Another podium for Kimi today. He’s driving very well again. I wonders if it is possibly related to his future employment prospects or Massa not being there or something like that, but anyway, it doesn’t really matter. The point is he’s getting the job done – he’s crept under the radar in the last 2 races to take podiums to take his total to 3, which isn’t bad considering the lock Brawn and Red Bull have had on the podium until recently
But the subject of 2010 is still up in the air. Ferrari continue to maintain he has a contract with them and thus will be racing for them next year, but it’s an open secret they’re after Alonso because of Santander’s involvement. Although you could say Massa’s accident opened up the possibility of him staying, the fact of the matter is Ferrari will not dump Massa now after his injury – they’ll give him another year to see how he’s going because they’re not that cold-hearted (anymore)
So it’s almost a foregone conclusion that it’s Kimi that will be exiting stage right, therefore he will need his sizeable contract paying up by the red team. Rumour has it that the team has offered the Robertsons (Kimi’s management team) to pay up half of it, but depending on who you listen to, there is more to it. There was a suggestion that there would be a clause in that that he couldn’t race for another F1 team, whilst there is also the rumour that doesn’t go away about him going to rallying. This weekend, this returned with speculation that Fiat, along with VW, are to join the WRC next year with Kimi as one of the drivers – this would be an added sweetner for the deal
However, on top of this, there were suggestions that Kimi and co had started to look elsewhere, with the Robertsons reportedly meeting with Ross Brawn over a potential switch, whilst Toyota are said to have made a big offer (again) which he turned down. There are quite a few teams looking for potential new drivers right now, including Renault, McLaren, Toyota, Brawn, Williams and the 3 new teams, but there are also a number of handy guys on the market, including Kubica, Rosberg, Trulli, Barrichello, Heidfeld and Kovalainen. Ignoring the 3 new teams, that’s 7 drivers (including Kimi) and 5 seats – 2 people will have to miss out on a decent seat, unless they want to take a chance on Sauber Mk III
The good thing for Kimi is if he wants another seat, they’d all throw a sizeable amount of money at him to try and sign him, although probably not as much as he’d be getting at Ferrari:
– Brawn are currently a front-running team but doubts remain over their future performance (see the failed upgrades) and their finances as they still don’t have a big sponsor. Would he want to go in and fight Jenson?
– Toyota have the cash but Kimi seemingly isn’t interested, and on the basis of getting shot of Trulli (and numerous other drivers) for no good reason, I don’t really blame him. I don’t see him as the sort of guy who would be looking to build a team like Schumacher
– McLaren also have the cash. It wouldn’t necessarily be a backward step for Kimi from Ferrari, and he knows the team. BBC journo Andrew Benson seems to think it’s a possiblity, but would McLaren really be willing to sign another driver on big money when they already have Lewis who does the job just fine now as it stands? As romantic as it sounds for Kimi fans, I think it’s a very long shot
– Renault want a big name driver to lead their team instead of Alonso. A swap deal makes sense business-wise, and Kimi (allegedly) nearly joined them halfway through 2006. But right now, they seem mired into the midfield. It would be a gamble, a backward step, and a paycut, plus with lingering doubts about Renault’s commitment to the sport
– Williams definitely won’t have the cash to give him a big salary but are also desperate for a big name. It would be nice to see a racer drive for the racing team, but why would he go there over the other teams?
– I’m sure the new teams would love to pick up a world champion but can you really see it happening? If it would be any of them, it would be his ex-FRenault team Manor. Maybe Branson would stump up the cash for a reasonable salary to get the coolest driver on the grid to drive for his cool team (what a PR boost that would be), but I think John Booth would have to get Kimi pretty drunk for him to agree to sign for a team that will almost certainly be a backmarker in 2010
So, where? I’m still not convinced he’s going to rallying, and I’d love to see him try someone else, but I seem to remember him saying Ferrari would be his last team, so I think the chances are he’ll either be at Ferrari or he won’t be in F1 at all. For 2010, at least