Renault team principal Eric Boullier wants to meet face to face with Kimi Raikkonen to get a better understanding of how interested the Finn is is in a return to Formula 1, as the French manufacturer continues evaluating slotting him in alongside Robert Kubica in 2011.
Raikkonen and Renault made contact earlier this month to discuss the possibility of a tie-up for next year – with such a deal having been off the cards earlier this year. Although Renault has made no secret of the fact that current driver Vitaly Petrov can retain his seat if he shows signs of improvement, the squad is still weighing up the pros and cons of taking Raikkonen.
Before it will consider entering serious negotiations with Raikkonen and his management team, however, Boullier said he wants to know for sure that the former champion is fully motivated for a comeback. And to do that, Boullier thinks he must meet Raikkonen face to face so he can see for himself whether there is a genuine hunger to find F1 success with Renault.
"It is definitely getting closer to when we will make a decision," Boullier told AUTOSPORT. "But we really want to consider all of the options. I decided to tell some drivers that we will not carry on discussions with them, but Kimi remains one of our scenarios. I want to meet with him first before we do anything more. I want to understand more about his wish to come back."
With Petrov having made another qualifying mistake in Singapore, after spinning out of Q2 and damaging his car, Boullier admitted that he had not yet seen enough to convince him the Russian is the right man for his team in 2011.
"It is still frustrating because he keeps making mistakes," explained Boullier. "We put a lot of pressure on him and definitely he was not on the pace on Friday, but he was there on Saturday.
"He qualified 13th with a crash in Q2, so it was a strange situation. The race could have been good, but he opened up a little bit too much the door and [Nico] Hulkenberg did a kamikaze move on him. It is racing, and it was unfortunate."
When asked whether the decision on Petrov rested on commercial factors or performance, Boullier said: "It is definitely not a money issue. It is only the understanding for him to fit in F1 – and for us to give as much support as we need to give him to make sure he could be, shall I say, a decent second driver to score points next year.
"If Robert is fighting like now for fifth position and Petrov can finish seventh or eighth, then that is fine. This is what we expect from a young driver. And it means his learning curve is still improving. If he is already at the limit, then it is a different matter."