So after weeks of speculation, Kimi Raikkonen’s move to the World Rally Championship with Citroen has at long last been announced. With the backing of Red Bull, the Finn will be joining the Citroen Junior Team for a twelve-round programme next year.
Seems like a great deal all round. At a time when manufacture and participant levels are thin on the ground, the WRC will be boosted by the thousands of Raikkonen devotees out there who will flock to the sport and cheer him on. Citroen and Red Bull will be rubbing their hands with glee over the marketing potential, and the Finn himself might cheer up and show some enthusiasm for something for a change.
As you can perhaps tell, I’m not what you could call a big fan of the ‘Kimster.’ Maybe I’m missing something. I don’t think I am. Maybe it’s a by-product from spending too much time hanging around on various online forums full of his nutjob supporters who probably smear ram’s blood on their chests and chant his name a hundred times at the weekend.
I just never saw the attraction of Raikkonen and why he warrants such a massive following. Granted, when he could be bothered, he could be one of the quickest drivers on the grid. But those to me were too few and far between and I have always questioned his motives.
Everybody has a price and his was too high. Would I prefer to Raikkonen than watching Kovalainen, Glock or any of the new pay drivers en route to F1 for next season? Yes I probably would. But the problem I believe that exists is that both he and his manager Steve Robertson have a vastly over inflated view of his worth, and both Ferrari and McLaren didn’t believe he was worth as much as he wanted.
Considering what Jenson Button is expected to receive at McLaren, Raikkonen would have just about reached the same enormous salary he has been happy chasing in at Ferrari. So is it greed that’s got the better of him?
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. In truth I think it’s evenly split between high money demands and wanting to apply his trade to something else for a change, and thanks to Red Bull, it seems he’s got everything he wanted now that he’s signed up with Citroen for the WRC next year.
Joining the excellent Sebastien Ogier in the French Manufacturer’s ‘B-Team’, I reckon Raikkonen will have a tough time acclimatising to life in a rally car. The 2007 F1 world champion did show some glimpses of speed during his WRC debut at Rally Finland this year, but he has yet to actually finish a competitive rally, after rolling his Abarth S2000 into a ditch on stage 19.
Yet anybody who believes he’ll be competitive next year just because he was sometimes good in F1 needs to think again. It will take him time to get used to the pace notes and the rallies will be a brand new experience to him. There’s no run-off areas and the line between success and failure is slim – as he has already found out. Throw in the various conditions and he has a tough time ahead of him. The chances of fighting amongst drivers with bags more experience under their belts, the Loebs, Hirvonens and Latvalas of this world are slim to none.
But then that probably doesn’t bother him too much. It appears that Raikkonen’s motivation for driving in the WRC is more for fun, while cashing in a large £10m cheque from Ferrari, than trying to be competitive and the marketing machine that is Red Bull will be rubbing their hands with glee at the moment.
Though what’s this on the horizon? American rally and extreme sports star Ken Block close to a deal to form the all-new Monster Energy Drink World Rally Team with Ford? For me, this represents a more pivotal moment in WRC’s development than a bored F1 driver who couldn’t find a race seat. Undoubtedly time will tell and I await Raikkonen’s rally adventures with baited breath.