JUNE 19, 2006

Raikkonen and Renault

There are rumours kicking around at the moment that Kimi Raikkonen is close to agreeing a deal to race for Renault in 2007 and 2008. The team has already signed up Giancarlo Fisichella and with strong rumours from Italy that Michael Schumacher has agreed to a new two-year deal with Ferrari, it is likely that Raikkonen will now either stay where he is at McLaren, alongside Fernando Alonso, or move across to take Alonso's drive at Renault. Running a Raikkonen-Alonso duo would be expensive for McLaren with a total driver budget (including testers) of around $45m, an increase of around $10m on this year's costs. However, the stories of a Raikkonen offer from Renault suggest a three-year deal worth only $63m. This does not sound like a very attractive deal, given that Raikkonen is currently earning that sort of money at McLaren and was looking for a serious hike in salary in 2007 and that Michael Schumacher will probably be leaving Ferrari at the end of 2008, and raikkonen wants to be available when that happens. It may also not be possible to do such a deal as Ferrari may have first option on Raikkonen's services for the year's ahead. A two-year deal thus makes more sense for Raikkonen.

All of this is not very cheery news for Heikki Kovalainen who was hoping to step up to become a Renault F1 racer in 2007 after a year testing for the team. If Fisichella and Raikkonen are signed there will be no room for him. He might land a drive elsewhere but moving straight into the Renault team, as Fernando Alonso did, would be a much better option for the young Finn.