Kimi's future hot on the lips
WHERE WILL HE GO? Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen is a hot topic right now since Red Bull has been ruled out for his 2014 seat. Will he stay with Lotus or head over to Ferrari? Image: AFP
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
LONDON, England - Kimi Raikkonen, the least garrulous of Formula 1 drivers, is the man everyone is talking about ahead of Sunday's 2013 Belgian Fq GP at his favourite Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel may be well on his way to a fourth consecutive title with four wins already and the second half of the season favouring him in the past, but Raikkonen's future has hogged recent headlines.
Raikkonen started the August break as favourite to join Vettel at Red Bull in 2014 but now the chatter is about a different shade of red and a possible return to glamour team Ferrari if he doesn't stay with Lotus.
Raikkonen, champion with Ferrari in 2007 before making way at the end of 2009 for Spain's Fernando Alonso and taking two years out of the sport, is being touted as a replacement for Brazilian Felipe Massa.
Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson has ruled out Red Bull and said Ferrari was an option, even if the team has remained tight-lipped; whatever the reality, Spa is sure to give Raikkonen the stage to impress. Few have any doubt about what he can offer, with the 33-year-old second in the standings, 38 points behind Vettel and chasing a record 28th sonsecutive scoring finish.
Spa, a layout steeped in history with the stomach-wrenching slingshot through Eau Rouge and the longest and one of the fastest laps on the calendar, has been good to Raikkonen over the years come rain or shine.
'WANT TO BE THERE AGAIN'
The Iceman has won there four times with McLaren and Ferrari and, after five second places in 2013 following his season-opening victory in Australia, is gunning for another visit to the top step to boost his title challenge. Raikkonen told his team's website: "There are certain circuits where everything seems to run smoothly and then there are other circuits where I have no luck at all. Of course we will do our very best to win this race.
"I have been on the top step of the podium a few times at Spa - I want to be there again."
One of Raikkonen's memorable Spa wins was with McLaren in 2004, the team's only victory that year. His 2009 triumph for Ferrari was similarly face-saving as that team's sole success of the year. Until 2012, when he was third, he had either won or failed to finish every time he raced at Spa and he can still boast that he has been on the podium every time he has seen the chequered flag there.
Alonso, a point behind Raikkonen in third place, has never won in Belgium but needs to do so more than ever with Ferrari's challenge struggling to get into gear with nine of the 19 races remaining.
READY TO BATTLE
The Spaniard's team mate Felipe Massa, winnerr in Belgium in 2008, has not re-appeared on top of the podium since the end of that year.
Lewis Hamilton, who took his first win for Mercedes in Hungary and is now 10 points behind the Finn, triumphed at Spa in 2010 and the 2008 champion will be chasing a fourth consecutive pole of the season. A second victory in two races would put the Briton right back in the title chase.
Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff said: "Spa, on paper, is a circuit that should suit our car and Nico (Rosberg) and Lewis will be at their best on a real driver's circuit. We have a strong all-round package and good momentum after winning in Hungary."
Hamilton's former team McLaren, looking increasingly likely to have a winless season for the first time since 2006, had targeted the race as its best chance but that hope appears to have evaporated over the summer break.
Jenson Button, winner at the 2012 Belgian GP, told reporters before Hungary that McLaren could still win this year and Spa was "probably the best race to go and look for that".
The 2009 champion, with no finish higher than fifth in 10 races, sounded less optimistic in a team preview issued a week earlier. "We don't go to Spa with a package to win," he said, "but I'll still be making the most of every lap. It'll still feel incredible."
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2013 Belgian GP weekend.