Ferrari Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen will make his World Rally Championship debut when he contests his home round of the series, Rally Finland, next month.
Raikkonen has already competed in three rallies this year, but the Jyvaskyla-based ninth round of the WRC will be his first competitive outing on gravel. The Finn, who won the F1 World Championship with Ferrari in 2007, tested the Abarth Grande Punto for two days in central Finland earlier this week.
Raikkonen will be co-driven by Kaj Lindstrom, the former co-driver of four-time World Champion Tommi Makinen. Makinen's own racing team will run the Abarth for Raikkonen.
Lindstrom has contested Rally Finland 10 times, finishing sixth twice with Makinen, and admits the 29-year-old Raikkonen will face a difficult task when he starts his first WRC round.
"Rally Finland is not going to be easy for sure," said Lindstrom. "The rallies we have done so far have been smaller events, a three-day WRC round is much longer and more intense than those national events. And it doesn't just start with the rally, we have two days to go through the recce and make the notes. Kimi makes very good pace notes, but there will be pressure on for the recce."
Lindstrom added that his driver's absence of gravel experience will also make his task tougher next month.
"He has competed on snow and asphalt, but never gravel, but we have tested on gravel," said Lindstrom. "But one of the hardest things for Kimi will be the speed of this event. Rally Finland and the roads used are so fast, like nothing we have done before – that does take time.
"But, let's not forget, this guy is a pretty good driver! He's very talented and I'm sure he will cope fine."
Raikkonen finished 13th in the Arctic Rally in January, his rally debut. He returned to snow rallying and held seventh overall in the Vaakuna Rally, before putting the Abarth off the road and ending the event 17th. His asphalt debut came on the Rally della Marca in Italy in May, where he damaged a wheel and retired on the third stage.