2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen will take a sabbatical from Formula 1 next year, his manager has revealed, following the collapse of talks with McLaren about a deal for 2010.
Raikkonen said last month that, in the wake of being released from his Ferrari contract, his only option to remain in F1 was with McLaren, because he wanted to be guaranteed a top-line grand prix car. However, amid increasing speculation that Jenson Button is on his way to the British team, Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson revealed on Tuesday night that discussions with McLaren had come to an end.
"The options in F1 were with McLaren next season or not at all," Robertson told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, which has close links with the Raikkonen camp. "Kimi and McLaren were unable to reach an agreement, so he will not drive at the F1 level – at least not next year.
"A year off means nothing for Kimi. He is more interested in fighting for wins and the World Championship. F1 will miss Kimi. He worked hard over the summer – doing things in a Ferrari that only the best drivers are capable of."
There were several stumbling blocks to a deal being completed with McLaren prior to the team finding out that Button was available and interested. As well as a difference of opinion about wages, Raikkonen and McLaren were believed to not be in agreement about the number of sponsorship appearance days he should do, or about how free he was to run the occasional rally.
With Raikkonen only interested in returning to F1 in a race-winning car, his best option for 2011 would appear to lie with Red Bull Racing – which has a theoretical vacancy for 2011, with Mark Webber currently only contracted until the end of next year. Although it is not clear what Raikkonen will do next year, it is possible that he will focus his efforts on the World Rally Championship while he sorts out an F1 return. Red Bull could be involved in his rally plans, too.