AUTOSPORT claims Kimi Raikkonen will decide his Formula 1 future in the next 48 hours as a Ferrari deal is almost imminent.
After weeks of interest surrounding the Finn’s plans, sources close to the former world champion have revealed that he is now ready to make his choice.
Raikkonen has been waiting for Lotus to get the financial and technical assurances he wants to be sure of staying.
However in light of Lotus not being in a position yet to deliver those guarantees, Raikkonen’s management team has also been in discussions with Ferrari.
Those talks are at an advanced stage, with Ferrari also closing in on a decision about who to partner Fernando Alonso with in 2014.
Ferrari is expected to make its choice clear on Wednesday, and it is understood Raikkonen is ready to commit if the deal on offer is attractive.
Although there are reports that Raikkonen’s Ferrari deal is done, sources close to him insist a final call has not been made yet.
Ferrari too is not definite on its plans, although Raikkonen is believed to be its preferred choice.
Other sources, such as Auto Motor und Sport, RTL, Bild and various Italian websites claim the deal is done, with an announcement to be made on Wednesday.
According to our sources, Red Bull have contacted Raikkonen’s management. Dietrich Mateschitz wants to reopen negotiations next week in a last attempt to secure the world champion for 2014.
Daniel Ricciardo was initially Red Bull’s choice, with team adviser Helmut Marko pushing to promote the Australian from Toro Rosso and eventually convincing Mateschitz to hire him.
After weeks of silence from Red Bull, Raikkonen held talks with Ferrari and various reports surfaced about the Finn’s return to Maranello. The reports talked about a two-year deal with a one year option.
German newspaper Bild reported that Dietrich Mateschitz was not comfortable with Ferrari securing two world champions [Alonso and Raikkonen], while his team would have Sebastian Vettel and rookie Daniel Ricciardo. The founder of Red Bull stressed on the key importance of WCC points, something which Raikkonen would certainly deliver strongly.
Our sources close to Red Bull suggest that on Friday morning the team contacted Raikkonen’s management and have scheduled a meeting to resume negotiations.
If reports about Raikkonen’s deal with Ferrari are correct, Red Bull’s move may have come late and the Milton Keynes team would be forced to stick to their initial choice or attempt to lure Fernando Alonso from Ferrari.
Reports suggest that Ricciardo did a seat fitting at Red Bull in Milton Keynes for the 2014 chassis.
The team has been denying they signed with any driver, but Mark Webber revealed to Channel 10 on Sunday that Ricciardo is his successor.
Today, various reports surfaced that Ricciardo was in Milton Keynes at Red Bull headquarters, doing a seat fitting for the 2014 car.
The Australian is all but confirmed, with an official announcement coming in Monza, at the Italian Grand Prix.
During Thursday’s press conference, Sebastian Vettel revealed that negotiations with Raikkonen have indeed broken down.
Steve Robertson’s admission that negotiations stopped was believed to be a ploy to bring Red Bull back to the table. The two parties were supposed to meet this weekend to make a final try.
Sebastian Vettel, however, clearly stated that Raikkonen will not drive for Red Bull next year.
“First of all, I don’t know how realistic the chances were of him driving here, but we’ve all been informed that it’s not going to happen anymore. Kimi would have been nice in many ways. Now it’s not happening so it doesn’t make sense to talk about it.”, Vettel stated.
Ricciardo is set to be confirmed at Red Bull now that Raikkonen is indeed out of the picture.
According to Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle, Raikkonen is having talks with McLaren about 2014. The Finn is also in line for a Ferrari move, with Red Bull deal supposedly off.
Martin Brundle pointed out that he’s on scene in Belgium at the Spa-Francorchamps race track:
“Paddock consensus points at Ricciardo to Red Bull. I suspect Kimi’s gang are also talking with McLaren as well”, Brundle tweeted a few minutes ago.
Lotus reported that Raikkonen will not take part in media briefings today due to illness. The speculation continues without a comment from the man himself.
Sergey Sirotkin has had a seat-fitting at Sauber as the team considers promoting him to their race line-up for 2014.
The 17-year-old Russian driver was first linked to the team after they agreed a new investment deal with three Russian organisations.
Some F1 drivers have expressed doubt over whether Sirotkin, who turns 18 next week, is experienced enough to race in F1. “I wasn’t ready at 18,” said Lewis Hamilton, “and I was pretty good at 18″.
Sirotkin is tipped to perform a demonstration run for Sauber in Sochi next month. The city is set to host the first Russian Grand Prix next year.
Raikkonen’s manager says the Finn wants to continue at Lotus next year as well.
Steve Robertson spoke to Finnish media on Wednesday morning about Kimi’s possibilities for 2014.
“Kimi likes it at Lotus. We expect, however, to receive some information on certain issues that have not been resolved. But yes, there’s also a possibility that Kimi will drive for Lotus next year”, Robertson admitted.
The issues could be related to financial difficulties and the absence of a title sponsor, which lead Lotus to delay Raikkonen’s salary.