Kimi to join Vettel in 2014?
WHAT'S IN STORE FOR 2014? Kimi Raikkonen is a possible candidate for the soon to be vacant Red Bull seat in 2014. Image: AFP
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
SILVERSTONE, England - Kimi Raikkonen could be in pole position to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull but both sides face difficult decisions.
Webber announced on Thursday (June 27) that he was leaving Formula 1 at the end of the 2013 season.
Raikkonen, World champion with Ferrari in 2007, is out of contract at Lotus at the end of the season and has been strongly tipped to become Triple World champion Sebastian Vettel's team mate in 2014.
NO ISSUE WITH SEB
Raikkonen, speaking to reporters after Webber made his decision known, did not rule out a move or talk up his chances.
"Obviously people will talk more about the chances but it doesn't really change what I will do next year or what my decisions are - even if there is obviously an open place. I have nothing to tell people until there is something certain on paper and I will tell immediately because then everyone stops asking the same question."
Raikkonen said being in the same team as Vettel would not be an issue: "I have no problem to race with anybody. I have never been in the position to choose who I drive with, so it doesn't change anything."
Red Bull also has a young-driver programme with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne at sister team Toro Rosso, both hoping for the chance of a promotion. The team now has to decide whether its young talent has what it takes or look outside for proven success.
On paper, Red Bull might appear an obvious choice for Raikkonen given that it is engine provider Renault's favoured development partner and designer Adrian Newey - with whom he worked with at McLaren - has produced a steady stream of winning cars. But Raikkonen, 33, is the clear number one at Lotus - a status he would not have at Red Bull where 25-year-old Vettel has long been considered the favourite.
Lotus has humoured the Finn's renowned dislike of media and sponsorship activities, giving him more freedom than any team he has driven for to date and playing up his "Iceman" image. It has provided him with a winning car, with the hugely popular driver triumphant in the Australian season-opener and challenging for the championship.
"It has been perfect," said Raikkonen. "Without it I wouldn't be back in F1. For sure it also got some good things out of it, so I have no complaints. Obviously there are certain things that have to improve but I have a great time with the team and that is why, whatever the decision will be, it will be difficult."
Ricciardo and Vergne both hoped they could secure the seat - just as Vettel did when he moved up from Toro Rosso at the end of 2008 - but accepted they had competition. Ricciardo said: "Unfortunately I've had a pretty poor run in the last few races so that's definitely my concern. My priority now is to get some results back on the board.
"I've got to focus on the next few weekends to remind everyone that I'm here to be successful. In a perfect world (Red Bull) would love one of us juniors to go through and to do what Seb did. I think that's the real philosophy of the programme. I think it would love to see one of us really start to shine."
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 F1 season – fresh reports every day.