Raikkonen considers rally switch

Former Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen is considering switching to rally driving as he weighs up his post-Ferrari future following this weekend’s final race of the F1 season in Abu Dhabi.

The Finn’s future is one of the major talking points in Abu Dhabi, with the 2010 driver market very fluid.

Nico Rosberg confirmed on Thursday he would be leaving Williams at season’s end, while BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Force India’s Adrian Sutil said their futures were uncertain.

Raikkonen will make way for Fernando Alonso at Ferrari next season. He has attracted much interest from other F1 outfits, with his former team McLaren considered the leading suitor for his services.

However, the enigmatic Finn said on Thursday that this weekend’s race could be his last in F1.

Asked if a switch to rally driving remained an option, the 2007 F1 world champion said: “It’s definitely one of them.”

“Its not just Formula One or rally, there are other things I could do, so we will see what happens,” he added.

A one-year sabbatical from F1 is also possible, though Raikkonen hinted that he would stay in F1 by saying his contractual conditions for 2010 would include an option to take part in occasional rally driving, as he did this year.

“As long as it doesn’t disturb what you are doing in Formula One, there is no problem,” Raikkonen said.

Rosberg confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock on Thursday.

“It is my last race with Williams,” Rosberg said. “Four or five years with the only team I have worked with—it’s going to be quite strange to leave.”

The German would not reveal who he would join next season, with McLaren or Brawn GP considered the likely destination.
He was eager to join a team that had the potential to win races next season—something he thought was beyond Williams.

“I would like to try to get into a car where there would be a very good chance of winning,” Rosberg said. “There is no reason they [Williams] can’t be as good next year as this year and remain close to the top, but I am not sure they can win races.”

Heidfeld was confident of remaining in F1 next season, even as his team remains in flux. BMW will withdraw its support after this race for the Swiss-based Sauber team, which is first reserve for 2010, requiring one of the 13 confirmed teams to withdraw or for rival teams to agree to a 14th outfit.

“I hope Sauber will be here next year,” Heidfeld said. “I’m pretty certain I’ll be here next year.”

Heidfeld’s 10 years of F1 experience would make him a sought-after commodity for one of next season’s four new teams: Lotus, Campos, Manor and USF1.

Trulli’s chances of staying at Toyota appear slim but, like Heidfeld, he would be an attractive proposition for one of the expansion teams as he can pass on the know-how acquired from 218 races.

“I have some options,” Trulli said. “There is a high chance of leaving Toyota but it’s difficult to say and talk about it. A lot is up in the air.”

Sutil appeared more confident of remaining with Force India and thus being one of the few drivers to start 2010 with the same team with which he finished 2009.

“It’s still not confirmed,” Sutil said. “It would be a good thing to do another season there. Both sides are interested.”—Sapa-AP

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