Race for Red Bull F1 hot seat heating up
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — As the speculation increases about who will replace Mark Webber at Red Bull next season, former champion Kimi Raikkonen remains unsure if he will stay at Lotus.
Webber announced last month that he is quitting Formula One at the end of the season to race sports cars for German manufacturer Porsche, and there has been a guessing game since over which driver Red Bull will pick to compete alongside three-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel.
The 33-year-old Raikkonen is one of the favorites, and the 2007 F1 champion has yet to commit his future to Lotus.
“There’s not really one (factor). It’s going to be the overall package and whatever feels right for me,” he said Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. “Whatever decision it will be might feel stupid for somebody else but it might just feel right for me. I have no idea what will happen, we will have to wait and see.”
Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne of France both race for Toro Rosso — Red Bull’s sister team — and are reportedly among the contenders.
Raikkonen’s decision with Lotus may hinge on how competitive he thinks the team is going to be next season, when car changes will impact the sport.
“It’s a combination of things, it has to be right on racing, outside of racing, basically everything just has to feel right,” he said. “There is no guarantee the choice will be the good one in the long run ... You live with the choices.”
The 2014 regulations will set the sport’s engineers the challenge of completing a 300-kilometer race distance on a fuel load of just 100 kg. To do so, teams will switch from naturally aspirated 2.4-liter V8 engines to 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged hybrid Power Units.
“Obviously you can’t have any guarantee what will happen next year with any teams and any cars,” Raikkonen said. “One engine manufacturer gets it right. (So) it might be a long season for some teams and an easy one for others.”
Raikkonen is one of the most reclusive, softly-spoken drivers in F1.
He was asked how he would cope with the extra media demands should he join the most powerful team in F1 — and the Finn answered that question as coolly and dispassionately as he does most others.
“I’ve been in most of the top teams and I know exactly how it goes,” he said.
Whatever team Raikkonen chooses, Lewis Hamilton — who succeeded him as F1 champion — expects the same challenge.
“He’s a fantastic driver, he’s got great experience and he’s constantly proven his abilities,” Hamilton said. “Whatever car you put him in he’s going to be a fighting force in the field.”
The 24-year-old Ricciardo’s hopes were boosted after team owner Dietrich Mateschitz praised him after he was given a recent trial run in the ultra-fast RB9 that Vettel races in.
“There is no decision yet, and it is still under discussion within the team,” Mateschitz told Autosport website on Thursday. “It will be announced after Budapest ... But Ricciardo did an excellent job at Silverstone, and Vergne was very good.”
Ricciardo has three top-10 finishes this season and a best of seventh place at the Chinese GP. Vergne, a year younger, also has three top 10s and a best of sixth at the Canadian GP.