The real story: Raikkonen, Williams and Sutil…

There has been lots of talk in recent days about a visit by Kimi Raikkonen to Williams F1 in Grove. There is no question that this took place, but it was not as recently as some stories seem to suggest, but rather in the gap between the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix. It is not credible that his visit to Williams was a private one. Williams is looking for drivers for next year and now is the right time for such discussions to be taking place. The fact that Raikkonen was not the only unusual face spotted at Grove underlines this. The other man to drop by was Adrian Sutil, the Force India driver.

There is no doubt that Williams is looking around to decide what to do. It could keep Rubens Barrichello, but the relationship has not been an easy one and it has not been successful on the track. Pastor Maldonado will stay, if only because he brings a large sum of cash with him from PDVSA. That deal may be somewhat dependent on the future of the country’s president Hugo Chaves, but it is solid – and Williams needs solid money for the future.

Sutil is quick, but he is not famous for his technical abilities (nor is Maldonado come to that), but he has the added bonus of coming with money from Medion computers. This was bought recently by the Chinese firm Lenovo, but the restructuring since then seems to suggest a bigger involvement in the sport, rather than a reduction. Lenovo recently took on Gianfranco Lanci, a former CEO of Acer, as a consultant to help develop its consumer PC business. Lanci is from Turin and rose through the ranks of Texas Instruments and was appointed MD of Acer Italy when TI and Acer did a deal in 1997. He became president of Acer Europe three years later and soon afterwards agreed a deal to name Prost Grand Prix’s Ferrari engines Acers. After Prost closed Acer became a Ferrari partner. Lanci moved up to run the entire business, but left the company recently. His focus will be Lenovo’s integration of Medion.

A motivated Kimi would be a powerful weapon for Williams, which has struggled in the doldrums this year and is last of the established F1 teams. But Kimi is not going to be bringing cash and so it would have to be seen as a risk to try to attract other sponsors. The team is in the process of rebuilding. It has hired a new technical team and while there is a certain amount of doubt about the appointment of Mike Coughlan as the man in charge, there is no doubt that Coughlan has designed some decent cars over the years. New aerodynamicist Jason Somerville is highly rated and Mark Gillan is a solid pair of hands when it comes to applying science to motor racing. The team has signed a deal with Renault and that means that next year Williams ought to be back in the hunt in the mid-grid and not in the current mess. What will turn the team back into a stronger force is good leadership. Success brings cash in F1 so the aim of the team should be to climb as high as possible in the Constructors’ Championship.

Kimi left F1 two years ago, wanting to do something else. He has done two seasons in the World Rally Championship and made a limited impression and then he popped up in NASCAR, although that seemed to be another false start. The signs are that he is thinking more about getting back into F1, if he can. He is only 31 but his lack of interest in his final year at Ferrari did not leave a good impression. It was felt that he had achieved his ambition and won a World Championship and did not seem particularly motivated to win another. Getting back into F1 was always going to be a challenge, as was seen when Renault F1 decided on Nick Heidfeld rather than Kimi. Whether Kimi is the right man to lead a Williams revival is an arguable point, but it might be a good move.

104 thoughts on “The real story: Raikkonen, Williams and Sutil…

  1. Signing Kimi would certainly be a PR coup for Williams but longer term would surely spell disaster. All his recent quotes and activities, not least his failure to turn up for Rally Australia smack of a man who can’t really be bothered.

    To be honest, anyone but Rubens would be a disaster for Williams.

  2. It would be a great move. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing Williams’ merchandise. At least they’d have someone to look out for.
    I respect Barrichello, but really, he’s no champion. A great servant of the sport, but not a driver that people want to be.
    Maldonaldo is a decent driver with a good bank balance. Kimi is an exceptional driver, provided he is given a decent car, elsewise he may just move off into the other categories again.

  3. “… while there is a certain amount of doubt about the appointment of Mike Coughlan as the man in charge,… ”

    Can you elaborate?

  4. Now there’s something Darth Bernie and me have in common: We’ll both love Kimi back in F1 as well as watching Williams on their way back to the front pack.

  5. A lot of oil barrels will need to counter-balance Kimi’s salary. Nevertheless, I for one would like to see him back in F1 as a half-motivated (nonchalant perhaps?) Kimi is still more entertaining than many other drivers.

  6. ……and of course, Kimi is well known for his technical abilities – gulp! He can operate an ice cream dispensing machine at the drop of a crash helmet.

    Nevertheless, if Williams make another dog, he would certainly be my choice of driver to pick it up by the scruff of the neck and make it do things that the simulations say should not be scientifically possible.

    Wilson

  7. Very interesting… I suspect it will be a long-shot if it happens but it would be tasty to watch. It does look like Williams are pulling out all the stops to try and get back to the top. Whether it works or not is another matter but in theory they have the ingredients they need to move forwards now.

    The one thing I don’t know about Kimi is how well he is known for his feedback. That said, Rubens is supposed to be quite good in that regard but at best it has only helped Williams drag a bit further away from the tail-end charlies…

  8. I can’t imagine Kimi choosing to fight to get in top 8-5 with Williams over fighting for victories and the World Drivers Championship title with Peugeot. Even if Frank hired Newey, Brawn AND Byrne right now, it would be enough to transform Williams into a winning team for 2012. I don’t think they have any chance for dramatic improvement until the next major tech. regs. shakeup.

  9. Joe, don’t forget, Acer moved to BAR Honda in 2002, staying for a season and a half, before moving on to Ferrari. Lanci was a key driver at the time in trying to do a deal with Flav/Benetton, but a British underling of his inside Acer (Neil Marshall) pushed the BAR deal across the line.

  10. “A motivated Kimi would be a powerful weapon for Williams”
    Agree…. I just question is such a thing as a motivated Kimi exists… and I am a fan of his. Sutil would be safer and with some $ that helps rebuilding but Kimi IMO is too far of a stretch…. I hope I am wrong because F1 could do with another character.

  11. Joe,
    Thank you, I’ve been waiting for someone to explain the Kimi story’s.
    I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

    Chin,chin.

  12. I for one would be delighted to see Kimi back in F1. He is a fantastic talent and even lacking motivation he was dragging that dog of a Ferrari to some decent finishes, notably his win in Spa.

    I suppose also that having a Workd Champion driver won’t do their share price any harm…..

    Cheers

    Gareth

  13. It would be great to see Kimi back in a F1 car, however I am not so sure that William’s would be the right place for him?

    Adrian Sutil is better off staying at Force India, at least until William’s show signs of improvement….

  14. Joe

    I would love to see Raikkonen back in F1 but you pose the question, “Whether Kimi is the right man to lead a Williams revival is an arguable point”. I completely agree with that. He would have to understand that this would be his last chance in F1. Does he care enough? I hope that he does.

    Do you know Mike Coughlan’s current status at Williams? There was talk about upgrading him to Technical Director when his original appointment was announced.

    Has that happened yet or do you expect it to happen?

    Interesting that nobody has commented on Sutil yet.

    Martin

  15. Oh please. Another month, another ‘Kimi to F1’ rumour. Why the world (and the fanboys) jump up and down for any news on this guy is beyond me.
    He’s said himself that he wouldn’t get back into F1 if it wasn’t in a Championship winning car. Where’s the motivation in trying to make a team a successful one? We’re just supposed to hand him a Championship and say thanks so much for coming back?
    No thanks.

  16. I think Raikkonen would be a good choice. He might not bring cash to the team per se, but I’m sure sponsors would rather go to a team with Raikkonen, rather than some old turd like Barrichelo.

    Just like how Renault had a few deals in the works which died out as soon as Kubica had his accident.

  17. I do not believe in the success of Kimi if he decides to return. Michael is better and has been a failure his return. The same is true with Kimi.

  18. Perhaps Kimi thinks he can do a couple years at Williams, just to show the F1 paddock that he is committed, and then try to get one of the top teams to sign him.

    A replacement for Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, perhaps, when the time comes…and we all know it will.

  19. I like Sutil and rate him as a driver but Williams need something special to pull them back to where they truly belong and I believe their best option is Kimi.
    His half motivated performance is better than most of the other drivers anyway.
    Didn’t the Ferrari team say in his last season with them ” he is doing things with that car that shouldn’t really be possible”

  20. If there is any truth to this story then Williams must be desperate.

    Kimi WAS a very fast driver. But the fact is that the “fire in the belly” was extinguished several years ago and, IMHO, it can’t be re-ignited once it’s gone out.

    If he couldn’t get motivated in an uncompetitive Ferrari, which still gave him a reasonable shot at a podium, how on earth is he going to get in the mood in a shitty Williams? Since his departure from F1 everything he’s done has been half-hearted. Like Michael before his return, he’s still young, can afford anything and is bored. Unlike Michael, he is not crazy about motor racing.

  21. Hard to know what to make of Kimi. He’s no leader or even a team player for that matter but his speed is undeniable. In a Mansell-like way he’s one of the few guys who will get something out of a car that few others would… although he’s also just as likely to sit in the midfield and have a nap if he’s not feeling the need. Too big a risk for Williams I’d have though.

  22. This is what Williams needs!!!! Serious motivation with a pumped up Kimi. I’ve never been a fan of his but would love to see Williams back at the sharp end. They need a fully #1 driver to accomplish that.

    Wait a sec…if it does happen and Kimi does the business I may turn into a fan after all…

  23. Sutil is feeling the heat from de Resta and wants out. Kimi gets bored and wants to do his own thing when he wants. Williams need de Resta. No chance! Williams only mid grid again in 2012. G

  24. How much Medion/Lenovo money might Sutil bring though? Is it enough to replace PDVSA’s dollars leading to a Kimi/Sutil pairing? I also read somewhere that PDVSA backing or not, Williams were not obliged to keep Pastor for more than 1 season without compromising the PDVSA deal which doesn’t seem likely, but if true could put Williams in a great financial position. They could take Sutil, gain the Lenovo money and put Kimi in the car to increase profile and entice other sponsors.

    It would certainly be a significantly stronger lineup than todays.

  25. Didn’t Williams lose Lenovo sponsorship to McLaren only a few years ago?

    Sutil in a Williams would be interesting, only because this is the first year since 1996 that Frank hasn’t had a German driver in his line-up. Other than that, it doesn’t inspire Kimi-like excitement.

  26. Love to see Kimi back. With a couple years leave, he might just surprise. Rubens been nothing but a whiny disappointment. He can’t retire soon enough IMO.

  27. It is time Kimi was back in F1. He is far to good to just disappear into being a bit part player in other championships. I would love to see another great driver in F1.

    Williams with Renault and some fresh design ideas could surprise people.

  28. All the drivers in F1 are quick, its mainly just the cars that separate them, Kimi at Williams would just mean 2 places up the grid.

    Until they produce a race winning car they will remain as they are.

    Put vettel and webber in a williams and they would be getting just the same results as williams currently are, maybe a few positions up the grid but nothing special.

    People like Senna knew this and so busted Franks door down to get a drive when they were quick.

    The cars the star, always has been and always will be.

  29. The plain simple truth is that Williams MUST KEEP RUBENS.

    Rubens is MUCH better than Pastor and have the speed, motivations and experience do guide them back to the right track in 2012.

    That´s for sure!

    What they MUST CHANGEis Adam Parr, who ruining the team since he arrived.

  30. I thank Red Bull and friend for helping Renault join Williams and making seat for Kimi!Looking forward for 2012 and beyond.

  31. “To be honest, anyone but Rubens would be a disaster for Williams.”

    You bet.

    Rubens is the right man indeed.

    [2]

  32. “The team has signed a deal with Renault and that means that next year Williams ought to be back in the hunt in the mid-grid and not in the current mess.”

    I’ll be amazed if the engine makes any difference to their troubles, frankly. Having a Renault hasn’t suddenly magically propelled Lotus into the midfield.

    I can’t take credit for it but someone else somewhere noted that the now-increasingly-regular Autosport pre-season “Williams: this season we’ve gone really aggressive” headline is beginning to turn into a tradition of “DC: this is my season” proportions.

  33. If he comes back because he wants to come back, he could be the best driver to sit in a Williams in years.

    If, on the other hand, he comes back because he’s bored and doesn’t know what else to do, it could be a disaster.

    I have to say I’d love to see Kimi back in F1. Saw the press conference from Brazil ’07 and he looked like the happiest guy in the world (for him anyway), I’ve never understood how that translated into his ’08 performance. At the end of the day, if he’s motivated, nothing else will matter.

  34. Lack of interest in his final year? I don’t really call single handedly dragging a poor car up by its bootstraps and getting fourth in the championship when he’d already been told he was going and could have sat on his backside ‘not interested’. In fact, it just showed the mistakes Ferrari had made.

  35. Is there something wrong with F1 when several young guys with obvious talent
    don’t last long and move on? I am thinking about Kimi and Juan Pablo Montoya who would rather finish 18th making left hand turns and eating corn dogs and drinking white lightning. Certainly Alonso has stayed and hopefully Hamilton and Vettel will. Too few good teams and the concept of “lead driver” for most teams may reduce the number of spots.

    I don’t see Raikkonen driving for Williams although maybe a gamble that he will regain his focus and determination is what they need.

  36. When James Allen published about his visit to Ferrari earlier this year he was very surprised to note that there was a lot of Kimi Raikonnen stuff around which indicated he was much more liked within, and left a stronger image ,than what was perceived by the public. And why would that be? Because as a driver/racer he is right up there with the very best. Perhaps his WCD title was not won in an open/shut case but there is no doubt that he is worthy of being a champion. And the same can be said of Ferrari. Perhaps some championships they won were arguable but it doesn’t take anything away. They are champions and deserve it (several times over).

  37. “It was felt that he had achieved his ambition and won a World Championship and did not seem particularly motivated to win another.”

    Well, what does one do when one has won the World Championship?

    Maybe the reason why Williams appeals to Raikkonen is because they’re languishing (and that’s putting it nicely). Getting them back to the front of the grid might provide the kind of challenge Raikkonen is looking for. Restoring them to their former glory (or to the point where their former glory is a tenth of a second away) would be one hell of a legacy to have.

    “How much Medion/Lenovo money might Sutil bring though? Is it enough to replace PDVSA’s dollars leading to a Kimi/Sutil pairing?”

    As far as I can tell, it is not enough. I don’t know the exact figures, but I have heard that Maldonado brings twice as much to Williams as Sutil does to Force India. That said, Medion might be willing to put more up if they want to be more prominent within a team – the Force India is dominated by Vijay Mallya’s brands, and Medion only have minimal branding. There’s acres of empty space on the FW33 at the moment, so Medion might see a them as a way to get more coverage (especially since they Maserati MC12s that they sponsored no longer compete in GT1).

    That said, I see no reason why Maldonado cannot improve. Vitaly Petrov had a horror 2010 and a lot of people questioned why he was in Formula 1 at all, but he has turned it around this year. Maldonado can do the same – he won the GP2 championship, so he’s not without talent. And he’s already beginning to out-race Rubens Barrichello …

  38. The trials and tribulations of Williams in the past decade have been in stark contrast to their earlier – more victorious – history. The ensuing financial insecurity and necessarily accompanying crises in leadership have transformed the team into something unrecognisable from its more uncompromising former self. Whether there’s a confluence of interests between the team and Raikkonen might depend on their mutual ability to re-establish a dynamic where the “delineation of inspiration” is found anew in sufficiently stark a contrast between the actors – adjusted to current and future demands.

    There seems to be potential for an unforced emergence of such a dynamic here, both from Williams’s best traditions and the particularities of Raikkonen’s strengths and persona. The market value of both – and possibly Renault as well – would likely also benefit. If everyone’s financial expectations stay realistic, i.e. proportionally tempered by a determination to find competitive success, I’m sure all ambitions can be satisfied. Incidentally, at Monza Peter Sauber had invited a group of journalists to join him for a soirée, among them Heikki Kulta of Turun Sanomat – whom you know, Joe. There, Sauber made some quite stark comments about Raikkonen not being “the same” ever since his years at McLaren, Peter evidently still miffed by having lost the talented rookie: Both on actual terms and apparently on some more abstract levels as well.

    At least Gillan and Coughlan have personal experience with Raikkonen of those confines at Woking and can provide perspective on whether this tie-up makes sense for them and Williams. Both Coughlan and Raikkonen have also suffered through some of the most dire days of “Spygate” and between them must have as unique and wide a perspective as two F1 professionals can on the whole saga and its subsequent repercussions. Shared past frustrations and experiences can prove a powerful empirically directed incentive when harnessed under new and different circumstances.

    I’m not a “fan” type of person and generally don’t much entertain notions or experiences of vicarious unity and/or shared interests around individual sporting successes. On the most general terms humanity is very accommodative of diversity, alas when one gets down to specific social spheres, personal success – or even one’s chances of striving for such – is often allowed by the environment contingent on much, much more restrictive modalities. At least some of these often fuzzy mores, the overall need for criteria aside, seem to be incongruous to the aims, values and overall benefit within any given endeavour. On this regard I wish Raikkonen some elbow room from prejudice as he has managed to confound and defy expectations – evident by the now ubiquitous measure of requiring “motivation” from him, a symmetrically self-contradictory predicament many have faced to their frustration – but has achieved a lot nonetheless.

    Be this manifest but benign inconformity by necessity or choice, I can sympathise with his “condition” through my own, even though perhaps predictably without any comparable personal success. It is likely wildly optimistic to assume that one might thus help the ripples of tolerance gain magnitude on other shores, but I do place some trust on the pertinence of altruism. It is in that spirit I wish Raikkonen – and Williams as well – continued success.

  39. I love Williams, and especially Williams-Renault. I loved Kimi prior to his Ferrari days. Why not after? Something happened to him there that smacked the racer right off his face. Let’s see, what could that be? Nobody talks about how miraculous it was to come from nearly three races behind with three races to go and win the championship. Don’t you think that such a miraculous underdog come good story would be shouted from the rooftops and replayed endlessly as a sign of how good F1 is? No, because it is the biggest, most heinous race fix that has happened in F1, and it was nothing to do with the teams or the drivers. Everyone forgets that McLaren left Lewis out until the canvas was showing through his Michelins in China then he suffered a mysterious technical glitch that sent him plummetting down the field in Brazil. People are afraid to put 2 + 2 together and say that as part of McLarens $100m fine and exclusion from the constructors championship it would be better for the sport if their driver did not win the championship. Politics. It makes me sick.

  40. I don’t think Kimi to Williams is happening, not sure why Sutil should leave Force India,if can Williams should bring back Hulkenberg.

  41. If Kimi returns to F1, he’ll expect to slot right into a top team. He couldn’t be doing with all the hassle of building a team up to be a winner. That’s why I can never see Kimi go to Williams. The Genii team, perhaps, but not Williams.

    I am convinced that it will be Sutil and Maldonado next year at Williams.

  42. Is Sutil shopping around because he knows that FI intend to give his seat to Nico Hulkenberg next year?

    I suppose that with a lower profile team that receives most of it’s sponsorship income through one of its other drivers might be good for Raikkonen in that he could presumably just turn up and get on with it, rather than do all the sponsor related PR days that McLaren demanded (and that even the current drivers, who are much more open to that, find excessive).

  43. if Kimi is motivated he’d race for a $1 and keep his personal sponsorship. He doesn’t need the money. But he does need another WC to go down as one of the greats because all I remember is a lazy racer who could go wheel to wheel with Hamilton when he felt like it.

  44. I have always struggled to see why so many people think that Kimi has been great for F1. he turned up, raced and went back home. Never once did he actually seem to be bothered, and instead of being a cool Iceman, because a driver can eaily be a cool person and take it in strides, Kimi has always just been an arrogant prick.
    I have talked to many reporters over the years, and every single one of them says that he never bothered. A great driver? No. A good driver. Certainly, but I´d rather see Sutil or someone else replacing Rubens, who is past his prime in every sense of the word.

  45. What is the loyalty-contractual or otherwise- towards Sutil if the new man in at the top has much more grandiose idea’s (and a purse to match) than a journeyman in -or heading to- a journeyman team?

  46. Formula One is cyclical for teams; winners and losers.
    Frank & Patrick are not fools and have proved themselves in the past, so no reason to doubt them now.

    What i can’t understand who this Adam Parr chap is?
    Is he just a buffer between the team and FOM, or does he bring something tangible to the team?

  47. While I admit it would be enormous to see a highly motivated Kimi at Williams, i seriously doubt it will come to that. Rather he might fancy a go at the Williams run Jaguar effort in Sportscars – LeMans?

    Sutil seems a far better candidate for Williams, fast enough to get some results and push Maldonado, brings money, has experience. Only they would have to get themselves some kind of test/development driver, not sure that would be a great setup though.

  48. I’m all for seeing Kimi return, but I think the chances of it being a successful collaboration will depend ultimately on Williams producing a radical new car that puts them towards the front of the field.

    Villenueve and Schumacher (although perhaps to a lesser extent) , both struggled after time away and I don’t think Raikkonen will find it any easier to readjust. F1 has evolved massively since he left Ferrari and unless he brings sponsorship, I think I’d rather stick with Maldonado, who to his credit has done well against Barrichello.

    There’s also a few GP2 drivers who could bring benefits, such as the new champion.

  49. A Sutil-Kimi pairing in a rejuvenated Williams would be the most exciting change to the grid for 2012.

    Sadly it probably won’t happen, but I would absolutely love to see Kimi back in F1. No current driver, bar Vettel has as much natural talent as Kimi.

  50. Joe, am I imagining this, or did Williams not try to tempt Mika back to F1 toward the end of their BMW relationship? I’m sure I remember reading he’d done all but sign on the line but got cold feet when they seemed keen to have Button back. I guess this must have been around the time Button was being fought over by BAR/Honda and Williams.

  51. Perhaps Kimi has been as happy to see all the fun in F1 this season and thinks it would be fun to race in a series where you can pass the car in front?

  52. As a dyed in the wool McLaren fan I was disappointed when it seemed they let Kimi slip for Button just prior to the 2010 season. Just goes to show how things can turn out . Would I swoop them now? No way.

    Don’t really mind who he drives for, but I’d be really really pleased to see Kimi back in F1.

  53. Joe, do you know what happened with a Michael Waltrip Racing law suite against Williams and Coughlan for breach of contract?

  54. Kimi back in F1 would reignite my interest… however good I can’t get as excited without him there….

    Actually he’s one of the guys who would love the new overtaking options and be able to get the most out of a car with high and low fuel ….

    And it wll get me to Korea, India and Austin…

    I haven’t seen him there yet!….

  55. What strikes me as odd is that more attention isn’t given to the success of the Sauber strategy. They have two young guns in the team and it seems to be working for them. Perhaps it is the failure of the TR partnership?

    I would have thought Williams should mine the talent in the lower formulas and try to pick another up and comer. This would fit into a strategy of rebuilding the team over the next few years rather than an “instant” return to form which they seem to continue to pray for with one off technical innovations.

    You can argue that an old hand like Rubens brings set up experience, but how bad must the car be if this experience is getting them their current results? So why not take a chance?

  56. It would be great to see Kimi back in F1 and Williams would be a good place for him to return and having the Renault engine powering the car couldn’t hurt either. But Frank first really needs to improve his design team with some talented boys & girls to get the cars to be a threat to winning both the WCC & WDC. Seeing them languish in the midfield is slowly becoming painful to watch.

  57. Hi Joe,

    Nice article! Is it proper to assume that the main point of this visit for Kimi is to create noise and bargaining power to whatever negotiations he’s into, rather than a return to F1?

    Kimi’s comeback should be good for F1 in general, at the very least.

  58. If your team requires a strong leader with a lot of passion, influence, motivation, ambition and dedication…don’t appoint someone who left F1 entirely unmotivated and wanting to try something else. It has to be said though, Do get someone other than the eternally moaning on TV and in the press Rubens Barrichello.

    Signing Kimi wouldn’t be the worst move I guess, especially if it’s on a 1 year deal and it would be very strong PR. Even if they were at the back of the grid, Kimi would get plenty of camera time.

  59. As i recall it, Patrick Head said that “Ferrari migh very well find that they’ll miss him” in response to his ousting back then..

    I’m a diehard KR fan – I’m a bit surprised that his interest in F1 appears to have returned (that did not seem to be the case when Robertson made is “Renault-stunt”) and that adequate motivation could be found on both sides here.. Goddammit it would be great to have him in as a break from all the the silky PR-trained monkies that make up the current grid.

    Sutil has had his day, he never cut the Toyota-deal that would have seen him progress and DiResta is too close to him for making a credible case based on driver skill.

    Williams need to decide on how to keep warm: piss your pants and take the Medion check or build a recognisable platform for a diversified set of sponsors (go with Kimi). Given that the near term financials are taken care of (which they are), they should opt for the long term plan and sign Ferrari’s latest World Chamionship Driver. My god I hope they do, I’ve been cheering for “Britney” long enough…

  60. I would personally love to see Kimi Raikkonen back. He is one of the most naturally talented drivers (who could possibly have become a multiple world champion were it not for the unreliability of the McLarens), and if the Williams-Renault arrangement can keep his motivation high Kimi has the potential to bring Williams back to his glory days. It all depends on his fitness and the success of the future Williams cars.

  61. It’s a good idea for Williams, but I am assuming that it is just an idea at the moment. Kimi was an exceptional driver, who on his day was capable of beating anyone, obviously F1 drivers aren’t allowed off days and so he slipped of the radar. Williams are currently rebuilding (again) and with the Renault lump might be in contention for the odd good result if a few of the top cars drop out of a GP, if this coincides with a good Kimi day, then he will deliver a result that would be out of reach for a Sutill or Barrichelo, maybe this is what Williams are thinking.
    Kimi’s lack of motorvation has blown any chance of returning to a top team and William’s recent lack of results means they can’t attract the top drivers, a good fit for each other then.
    P.S loving the Lewis bashing sneaked into a post that has nothing to do with him! It never ceases to amaze me how blinkered some people are to Lewis’s talents, seriously if McLaren wanted Kimi back they would have him, but they don’t.

  62. Joe,

    Is the concept of a driver being a “team leader” a reality? Do drivers actually have, or need to have the ability to lead and motivate a team of hundreds of engineers et al?

    It’s always sounded like a bit of a fallacy to me, or a romantic vision by fans of the superstar driver. Is that unfair?

    I’d imagine the real leaders who make a difference in the team are the senior managers who know how to set up the right long term strategy, attract and retain the right people to deliver that strategy and can harness any success or failure on track and convert it into motivation for the team.

    What is your informed view?

    Thanks,

    Shake

  63. This the F1 equivalent of the “David Beckham to sign for Spurs/QPR/whoever” stories. I.e. a player/driver who was great in his day now being used to generate column inches and shift merchandise (Renault Clios perhaps?). One could also say the same of Schumi’s comeback – bet it hasn’t harmed sales of Merc road cars, especially in Germany. Don’t get me wrong, I was a big Kimi fan, and would love to see him back in F1, but in a competitive car, not just making up the numbers. For that matter, I would love to see Williams jump back up the grid – they haven’t had a decent driver since JPM.

    Joe, as you have been critical (with good justification) of Schumi’s comeback at Merc being for the wrong reasons, I wonder whether you would put this proposed venture in the same category – or is there really any prospect of a Williams revival?

    1. Jerry,

      Williams is looking for ways to improve. They know that success on the race track is all that really matters as good sponsors and good drivers will follow. Thus it is the technology that is most important. Having a hungry driver to get the most of that is the second step. If Kimi is motivated and the machinery is good then there is no reason to suggest that Williams cannot return to the front in F1. Much of this is down also to leadership because all teams need someone to lead them and inspire them.

  64. Great.. Can’t wait to see the post race interviews with “Mr Monotone” again.. Oh , and wasn’t he always reported as being a real “party animal” away from the track??
    He is a decent driver.. Williams a more than decent team.. but, not sure it’s the best pairing.

  65. As a team boss I wouldn’t take Kimi on. He’s a talented driver for sure but he always seemed to have very little interest beyond actually driving the car.

    he’s not a development driver, he’s hardly great for promotional work, has a reputation for partying and adrenaline sports in his down time and seems to lack motivation if he’s not leading the pack. How he went from being world champion one year to Massa’s sidekick the next I just can’t fathom.

    I really can’t see him developing a williams car into a front runner and can’t see him driving well in a mid grid car. He just seems a bit lazy beyond the confines of the actual race.

  66. I still maintain that if you put Raikkonen in a straightforward, non-political environment with the right technical people around he will beat anyone on the grid – Alonso, Hamilton, anyone. The politics of the more established teams like McLaren and especially Ferrari just didn’t sit well with him I don’t think, and I was a bit surprised at his move to Ferrari.

    In his mind I think the only team he wanted to go to was Red Bull because they’re the only ones who can guarantee him a shot at the championship right now. He’s not interested in getting a couple of race wins here and there. Failing that he would like to catch a team on the up rather than languishing at McLaren or Ferrari without the right car as he did for a time. Whether Williams is that team remains to be seen.

    It will certainly be interesting what assurances he wants from Williams about their technical set up and from Renault about what Williams will be getting. He’s pretty hard-headed about these things is Raikkonen, despite some peoples’ impressions of him, and reputations of teams count for nothing. He certainly didn’t go there to look at a Jaguar sports car……..

  67. hmm kimi in a williams that will be interesting. Ive always regarded kimi as super quick in mclaren and have done some stonking drives, mr ice cool well that was then, mr monotone so was mika its something about where they come from. winning the world championship at ferrari is not how he wanted to win it, he wanted to really win it not at somebody elses misfortune like hamilton/massa saga.Personaly i dont think he liked the ferrari camp or shall we say schumacher camp and regretfully left mclaren, he couldnt undo what he already done. schumacher was out for three years and now at the last few races he’s come good again, massa has found his feet as well this year, so you never really lose your mojo. kimi could come good for williams so long as they can hold on to their established driver, so why not give him a go nobody else out there as good as kimi, and as far is r&d imput, he could be invaluble as schumacher proved f1 cars dont really change that much its a myth to justfy how hard it is…..

  68. Maybe Kimi will drive for peanuts for Williams (thank you Ferrari) just to show the grid he is motivated……..again? After all Frank is not noted for paying huge salaries to drivers, especially former WDC’s, even those of his own making.

    Having another former WDC on the grid would be potentially interesting, but only if he brings his game face with him. But why else would he come back if not motivated????

  69. p.s.I forgot to mention that when kimi was poached from mclaren by luca, luca felt that the fat lady was begining to sing ( schumacher) and wanted fresh blood in ferrari. What luca over estimated was this was a team schumacher built around himself, how on earth can kimi fit in, very difficult. alonso with the skill he has is finding it increasingly difficult at ferrari.key players in the team are leaving/ left ferrari for other teams, i understand ferrari is restructuring like williams, so all is not good. so look under the surface all is not what it seems, its not always the driver, thats to easy, usually the structure of the team dont suit some drivers…..dont forget when sombody makes an error at ferrari and they called lose the championship they are out. how sad this is a team with no human spirit. you can see the slant why kimi wasnt interested or eager to win another world championship at ferrari…

  70. This is one of those stories that I try not to get excited about because it seems so unlikely. But as a long-term Williams fan, who has had very little reason to cheer in quite some time (since Rosberg left, in fact…) I would love nothing more than to see Kimi in a Williams Renault in 2012. How wouldn’t like to see that?? Williams need something, and this is the kind of factor that could really put them on a role and give the team massive momentum. I loved Kimi at Mclaren, he was outstanding. Just brilliant. Ferrari never really seemed to suit him, in my opinion, and that is why his motivation waned towards the end. Come on Kimi!

  71. Very interesting rumour. One thing is for sure, Kimmi has already publicly stated that he has no plans for next year, but some Nascar outings here and there. Clealry he’s not motivated by Rally, nor Nascar. He doesnt suit them. I suspect he’s changed his tune since 2007 and is open to an F1 drive. I dont doubt for a second that Kimmi will not drive for an uncompetetive team. that much will NOT have changed. He may sing for Williams if they agree to build the team around him, and hes convinced of the total commitment and sponsorship. Though Kimmi seems Ice and placid, I suspect he can be pretty tempestuous if he doesnt get his way. That is what Williams lack and need. They have ZERO driver presence at all right now……..Look at the past champions, Mansell and Hill included. Even Hill would seriously throw his toys if he didn’t get what he wanted. Rubens, nice guy but just too whiney and not tempestous enough. I doubt he has the ability to put fear into the team.

    Maldonado, no presence, too young. Kimmi would certainly light a bonfire under Williams’ butt. They havent had the right driver since JPM. The team change around is not enough, they need a driver with serious presence. look at it from a fans point of view. Even if the Williams was competetive, bith drivers are dull as dish water. As dull as Kimmi can seem, no one in the pit lane would deny that he was/is a super quick driver, esciting on track, who does not compromise or give a hoot about F1 politics. I suspect he’s not one of Bernies favs though, since Kimmi does not play the BS F1 game at all.

    Unfortunately F1 is too reliable making William;s job even harder. with the current reliability of the engines and cars it makes for a precesion. F1 itself is headed in the wrong direction, its too clean all around.

  72. It seems to me that the premium F1 drivers don’t seem to have an interest in racing for teams that have no chance of winning. There is as class system in F1 that for me is it’s greatest turn-off where you have the A list: Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari. B-list: Mercedes, Renault, Force India, Sauber, Torro Rosso, Williams. C-list: Lotus, Hispania, Virgin.

    What the C and most of the B list teams need isn’t super fast drivers. There are plenty of those around. What they need is money and sponsorship to keep the gears greased and turning and often times that comes with a specific driver that has lots of money behind him, with a few notable exceptions (Renault looked poised to make a movie into the A list last year but this was not to be).

    It’s no surprise that you see F1 drivers that are easily capable and qualified to race F1 saying “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to NASCAR/WRC/GT I go” because what incentive is there in being a good driver for a mid-pack or back of the pack team if you can actually win in another sport?

    Everyone bemoans the loss of Robert Kubica for this year (and maybe more) but no one seems to pause to think that it’s entirely possible that he’d be floundering around mid-pack with everyone else this year making no impression at all because the Renault simply isn’t fast enough.

  73. Why would Sutil leave a team like Force India to drive for Williams? They haven’t had a championship capable car since 2003! Williams problem isn’t just a lack of money, it’s also a serious lack of talent back at the factory. Instead of trying to bring in Sutil, they should take some of that oil money from PDVSA and look to bring in some top notch talent back at the factory.

    Coughlan has been out of F1 for several years , so I don’t think he really brings the type of intellectual firepower Williams need to get back up front. I don’t really know much about Somerville, but from this article he sounds like a solid performer. Then again, solid really isn’t what Williams needs if they are going to get moving again. They need top level talent. I don’t think Sir Frank is willing to pay premium rates for top level talent. Williams is a huge project and would take someone like a Newey or Byrne to fix it. If the car isn’t any good, it won’t matter who drives the stupid thing! Eventually they will get fed up and leave, just ask Nico Rosberg.

    As for Kimi, he did an amazing job driving what was then a terrible car at Ferrari in 2009. I don’t know how he would fit in at Williams as his salary and other demands are pretty steep. Kimi isn’t the type to do podcasts and other marketing stuff that teams require nowadays. If they do find a way to put him in the car, he’s a massive upgrade over Rubens regardless of how motivated Kimi really is. Maybe he’s exactly what Williams need, someone who can drive well beyond the limits of the car and bring it home P8-10 on a steady basis.

  74. What makes people so sure Kimi would attract sponsors? If I were a sponsor, there are better teams available to give money to.

  75. Adrian Newey Jnr, Kimi is ‘brand juice’ and his sponsorship worth goes well beyond stickers on the car.

    If your renegade/rebel/speed/daring/extreme brand needs an icon, whether it’s clothing, drinks, sport, energy, marketing/PR etc Kimi’s great material. His I-only-care-about-racing is pretty unique in motorsport now.

    The problem for Williams is that their sponsor portfolio is very different to this, prefering to use finance, heavy tech industry or tech alliances.

    Maybe this is all part of Williams’ long-term strategy…although it seems a little 1990s…

  76. Very nice article, I personally LOVE Kimi !! and think it would be great for the sport !!

    I do want to point out that in his last year with Ferrari he did quite well to finish on the podium in many races compared to the other two Ferrari subs who were dead last !

    Kimi can drive, he has got raw talent!!

    He is a classic racing driver! shows up and drives and leaves to party ! hahaha

  77. i love to see kimi again in f1, his has got great talent!! he can bring some good result for the team, i think william doin a right thing if they able to get kimi in the team…..

  78. Kimi always grated with me personally, simply because he took reticence in interviews to ridiculous levels, almost like he was toying with journalists.Hakkinen was positively effusive compared to him. As a result, the ‘Kimi to return’ stories usually leave me cold. However:

    In much the same way that having Senna is revitalising Renault, apparently, perhaps having Raikkonen at Williams would attract some bigger brands and give the team a reminder that they do know how to win. Raikkonen in a half-decent Williams Renault would never win the title, but he might be a bit of a ‘Kubica in 2010’ figure and put in some heroic performances, which is something I’d like to see.

    i think he would be more valuable in terms of giving the the team a raison d’etre again. i don’t necessarily think he’s be any quicker than his team-mate, not for a while anyway. but a bit of star power might make Williams, hardly known for being the most cuddly team, feel like they’re loved again.

  79. IMO all these “Kimi no good with PR” comments are just waste of space. As Brendan Behan put is almost 100 years ago: There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary. Kimi left F1 two years ago but still his name is on everyones lips. Sutil & co have to do enormous amount of PR work to even come close. PR wise Kimi with ‘I will do no PR work whatsoever’ in his contract is worth a lot more than most of his rivals with ‘I will do as much PR as possible with 8 hours a sleep every day’. Just a simple rule of PR – like it or don’t.
    And yes, I’d like to see back on the grid as I’d like to see Irvine back and Keke and …

  80. Not interested in a spoiled brat tired of playing with new toys coming back to try an old one again… he didn’t respect his F1 drive when he had it thus I don’t believe he deserves another shot at it. I rather see Danica Patrick drive for Williams. At least the interviews would be more exciting. Williams either needs a young up-and-commer star that can bring some funds or a hungry talented driver that has some experience and can mentor Pastor and also bring some cash to the table. Rubens is fine but it’s time for a change, and preferrably someone that doesn’t bring politics and attitude to the table.

  81. Hey joesaward,

    If Williams don’t want Kimi, then the two options are either a pay driver or Rubens. As I stated earlier, I don’t see Sutil leaving Force India voluntarily. I think Rubens is their next best option. Williams seem to struggle from a technical aspect and Rubens excels in providing technical feedback. He’s been trying to tell them the work back at the factory isn’t translating into the results they expect. While bringing in more cash from a rookie pay driver would be great, I question how they spend those resources.

    I remember at the start of the season Williams were talking about the unprecedented levels of R&D that were spent on this year’s design. Based on this year’s results, you could say they poured unprecedented levels of cash down the drain for a measly 5 points. Again an indicator of a material deficiency & lack of top notch talent back at the factory.

  82. What is important is that Kimi actually visited(!) the Williams factory. He didn’t go to Rally Australia, he didn’t hang out at home, he didn’t go to a party, he traveled to England to visit the Williams factory. And Kimi is not the person to do such thing “just for fun” or whatever. That says a lot. That means there is a big chance that we will see him at Williams in 2012. And I think if Williams are smart (and they are), they will definitely pick him over Sutil.

  83. The thing that Williams does not say anything about this matter tells me that they are seriously trying to get Kimi. Previously Räikkönen had some talks with Renault but he got angry because the Renault team manager was talking too much about it.

    However, according to Finnish MTV3 channel Kimi is planning to continue rally and also wants to try Le Mans, Daytona and Indianapolis, so probably he will never go back to F1.

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