So far, there has been no word on the future of McLarens’ line up in 2007 other than the current reigning World Champion – Fernando Alonso – joining the squad. Currently, the team have Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya on their books, and both are capable and fast drivers. McLaren must surely be looking to keep Kimi though, as his outright pace is putting Montoya in the shadows. Kimi’s focus and dedication appear to be there whilst Montoya’s has often wained a little. Having said that, the Finn has been known to get frustrated at the reliability of the Mercedes engine, but I think that is understandable with the team.
But would Kimi want to stay and partner the fast Alonso next year? I’m not sure he would, but it would create an all-powerful lineup for Ron Dennis and his crew. Combined with Dennis’s view of “let the drivers race until it is mathematically impossible for one to win the title”, the lineup would create some epic battles and superb racing.
However, this scenario would only limit Kimi’s chances of winning the title. What Kimi really needs is a team mate at a similar level to Ferrari’s number twos in recent years. Someone who will occasionally win, but only when the star of the squad is in paarrticular difficulty. Kimi needs a driver who will play the supporting role and act as a team player. And I really cannot see Alonso being too keen on this idea.
So on that note, I think Kimi should look elsewhere for a drive in 2007. But what are his options?
Well, first of all Kimi’s choices are somewhat dependant on what other drivers are doing. For one, I cannot see Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen in the same team. Michael would surely lose his numero uno status as Kimi would push him to close and Ferrari would have to make a decision when it came to the crunch – a decision that Michael would not like if it fell to the Finns side.
However, if the multiple world champion were to retire from racing (or move teams) at the end of the season, then Kimi would be wise to take the seat. He would be guarenteed number one status, and a reasonable – if not brilliant – car as well as a team that is well-structured and well-funded. But Michaels’ retirement (or move) is a very big if. And in his words, there is only a 0.1% chance of this.
With Alonso switching to McLaren for 2007, there is a seat available at the French squad. But I am hesitant to say if Kimi would accept an offer if it were made. Renault are currently considering their future in the sport on a season-by-season basis, and Kimi would really need more security than that if he were to commit. Renault make good cars, they know how to win and have good support, but would they be willing to spend the dollars to acquire such a driver as Kimi? Again, I’m not so sure.
Toyota could probably afford the Finnish driver, and they are a team with a burning passion to win in Formula One. They have invested huge sums of money into the team, and are often quoted as having the largest budget in the sport. This may change in years to come with new rules being introduced, but the money invested now should help in seasons to come. They have a good engine, and I often think they are getting very close to making it all the way to the top step of the podium. However, as the team is at the moment, they are still an unknown when it comes to putting the whole package together. They haven’t won a championship and are still yet to make any huge impression on F1. Would Kimi appreciate the big picture and join the team now rather than later? Maybe if he won the 2006 title, he might as he would have proven himself and have a title under his belt. Whilst the desire to win more will still be present, he may be inclined to settle down and work with a team in a similar way to Villeneuve’s move to BAR, or indeed Schumachers move to Ferrari.
I think Kimi would be wise to switch to Toyota, as they appear to be the only team that will give him the security and the number one status, without having to rely on their current drivers retiring.
Unfortunately, Honda appear to be wrapped up with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. This is a good pairing and I am sure will create some success in the not-too-distant future. I cannot see Honda wanting to change two reasonably paid (one potential) winners for one very expensive but incredibly fast driver.
So in my opinion, Kimi needs to leave McLaren and move to Toyota for 2007. Perhaps Toyota could send Ralf Schumacher to the BMW squad – that would keep them happy having two Germans on the books, and would create a comfortable seat for Kimi partnering Trulli (or someone of equal talent).
Unless of course, Schumacher Snr does the unthinkable and signs a Red Bull contract!
Should Kimi stay, or should he go? What do you think?
Edit: Whilst I say that I think Kimi should look elsewhere for a drive in 2007, I am only saying this to open up the post. I acually think it would do wonders for the sport if two talented drivers were driving for the same team. Think of the battles that would result from Kimi and Michael in Ferrari’s, or with Alonso in the McLarens. Now that would be on-the-edge-of-your-seat racing!