Kimi and Williams F1

Now that the first reports are out of the way, it is a good moment to analyse the idea of a Formula 1 return for Kimi Raikkonen. The 31-year-old won the World Championship in 2007 with Ferrari, after five seasons with McLaren. He then seemed to lose interest somewhat and in 2008 was eclipsed by Felipe Massa. The same happened in 2009, although Massa’s head injury put Raikkonen back into the spotlight towards the end of the year, although by that point it was clear that Ferrari had decided that its future lay with Fernando Alonso. Raikkonen wanted to get out of F1 and try his hand at rallying, believing he would have more fun. He made the ambitious decision to leap straight into the World Rally Championship, with a Citroën Junior Team car and produced a solid first season. This year, driving for his own team, which is nonetheless under the Citroën banner. It has been clear, however, that Raikkonen has been missing circuit racing and this was underlined recently when his ICE 1 Racing was excluded from the WRC manufacturers’ title after the team failed to show up for Rally Australia, due to “logistical and organisational difficulties”. The team was also ordered to pay the entry fee to the event organisers and was fined $22,000 by the FIA. The cars were run by Kyle Busch Motorsports. In August Kimi popped up in Spain where he was testing a Peugeot Le Mans sports car at the Aragon circuit, the Peugeot company being part of the same PSA Peugeot Citroën company as the Citroën brand.

And then he was spotted on a quick visit to Williams F1. The team is in need of more finance at the moment and while there is an option to go for a second driver with money associated with his candidature, alongside Venezuela’s Pastor Maldonado, the team is hoping to avoid that situation and get a top class driver, which would attract money based on the promise of better performance. That is not easy to achieve in the current economic climate, but with Raikkonen on the books, the team would have the only World Champion of the last 10 years who is not currently competing. Williams needs success and has instigated a completely new technical team in an effort to stop the rot that has seen the organisation slide to the back of the F1 field in the last 15 years. The success or failure of this new team is likely to decide the fate of the team’s chairman Adam Parr, who has been running the team in recent years, following the decision by Patrick Head to step back from a daily role and Sir Frabnk Williams’s acceptance that he needs more help to do do the job. Williams had previously employed another young executive Chris Chapple, but he lasted only from May 2005 until November 2006.

Williams last won the World Championship back in 1997 – 14 years ago – but then slipped to third in 1998 and fifth in 1999, before starting a new partnership with BMW and bouncing back to third 2000 and 2001 and second in 2002 and 2003. Things began to go wrong in 2004 when the team slipped to fourth overall and the relationship with Munich turned sour and ended in 2005, when the team was fifth in the Constructors’. With Cosworth engines in 2006 the team was eighth (hence Chapple’s departure) but a switch to Toyota engines in 2007 resulted in fourth that year, but since then the slight upward trend from eighth to seventh to sixth ended this season with a dive to ninth overall.

For Kimi there is little to lose. If things go badly the team can take the blame, but if the results are better this will reflect well on him. Negotiations over contracts will mean that Raikkonen will have to compromise on his normal level of earnings, but he is not short of money and a healthy bonus scheme would be a very good way to motivate him.

45 thoughts on “Kimi and Williams F1

  1. Joe, is Rubens viewed as “yesterday’s driver” in the paddock? Do you think there’s any chance of him getting his 20 years milestone next year?

    He’s certainly a fan-favourite and it’d be sad to see him go, especially if it’s not on his own terms.

  2. I’m sceptical that it will go ahead, but as a very long time Williams fan, I’d love to have an inspirational driver to barrack for. Kimi’s apparent lack of character somehow makes him one of the bigger characters in the F1 sphere and I’d like to see a refreshed version of him drives the wheels off the FW34.

  3. “Negotiations over contracts will mean that Raikkonen will have to compromise on his normal level of earnings, but he is not short of money and a healthy bonus scheme would be a very good way to motivate him.”

    The cynic in me believes that Raikkonen never actually wanted the massive pay cheque when he was in negotiations for 2010. When Ferrari made the decision to drop him, they no doubt encouraged him to go rallying (just as they “encourage” technical staff to take long service leave, though I doubt a driver would be the technical goldmine for a team the way somone like Ross Brawn was). Of course, Raikkonen wouldn’t want to look like he’d taken the money and run, so he deliberately priced himself out of the market with a series of insane demands (nobody could guarantee a car that could win the championship six months before that championship began, not even Adrian Newey). A team might bow to one of them, but not to all. So I suspect Kimi priced himself out of the market so that his departure would be a case of “Raikkonen was unable to find a seat for 2010” rather than “Raikkonen took his pay-out and went rallying”.

    My cynicism radar has also been set off by the way Raikkonen’s Williams visit co-incides with a downturn in Double-R Racing’s performance …

  4. Heartening to see an article from you on this Joe. A journalist of such merit within the sport documenting these discussions adds true credence to the story.

    I’m not one to talk, but can I suggest taking a look through the article again, you seemed to have missed the start of your documentary on Kimi’s Nascar escapade.

    Time zones of cruel things. Ask Frank.

  5. People often mention his salary as why Raikkonen wouldn’t do it, but how much does Raikkonen make with his 1 sponsor (red bull) doing WRC and the odd nascar event?

    I’m guessing even he is paid 4 million in f1 he is still better off that in wrc

  6. “…while there is an option to go for a second driver with money associated with his candidature…” I like that Joe – the way to say Adrian Sutil without saying Adrian Sutil.

  7. Personally over the Kimi back to F1 rubbish from the forums, but it makes sense for Williams to do this.

    They have nothing to lose and everything to gain

  8. Anyone other than Rubens or possibly Heidfeld will spell the end of Williams. Adam Parr is ridiculous. He might well be a smooth operator in the board room but his role as the public face of the team and apparently its main player is absurd. Aside from his general incompetence shown over the past years since he assumed power at Williams, his assertion that the fans ought to pay up for F1 to change was absolutely breathtaking. On the announcement of the Renault deal he was quoted that he was all but certain of retaining Maldonado and Rubens – so apparently he is a liar also.

    I can see the appeal of Kimi, but realistically, he’s not going to be motivated and his name and fame didn’t help him win sponsors in the WRC, so I don’t see how it would help in F1. He might pull something special out of the bag now and then but overall I can’t see him contributing anything either as a driver or commercially that would help arrest the team’s decline.

    Face it Parr – the only real answer to your problem is the guy who you love to hate – RUBENS!!!!!

  9. It would be foolish for Raikonnen to go there. He won’t lead the team because he never led any team. He’ll take the car, drive it as fast as he can (pretty fast) and go back to the motorhome to drink some beer or have an ice cream and let the Williams engineers (not the brightest) sort out the data and come up with the appropriate set-up.

    It might prove better to keep Rubens who’s a better developer, not that Rubens is a great choice either but still better than Kimi IMO. I think that Rubens stinging critics towards Parr won’t help him keep his seat though. Hopefully, next year is Parr last year in F1.

  10. I think the boost in merchandise sales alone would go a long way to making the move worthwhile!

    I can’t see Kimi going to a midfield team though. What does he think will happen, he’ll have a good year and get hired again by a big team – pretty unlikely.

  11. “I can see the appeal of Kimi, but realistically, he’s not going to be motivated and his name and fame didn’t help him win sponsors in the WRC, so I don’t see how it would help in F1.”

    Because Formula 1 is where he made his name. If Williams pitch it right – that they want Kimi to restore their former glory – they’ll be a very attractive prospect for potential sponsors. Since the empty space on the FW33 can be measured in acres, and Finland is under-represented in the sport, there’s a lot of potential.

    The challenge is that there are few Finnish companies that would be viable as sponsors. Nokia are the most obvious choice, but they weren’t interested in Formula 1 when Raikkonen was linked to Renault, and a lot of the other companies on the OMX Helsinki 25 – the twenty-five biggest companies on the Finnish stock market – are in mining and construction.

    If you look at the current grid, the biggest sponsors are a) energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster, b) petrochemical companies like PDVSA and Petronas, and c) telecom companies like Vodafone and Claro. And then you occasionally get car manufacturers like Marussia and Caterham. An energy drink company is unlikely to sponsor Williams because they won’t be able to compete with Red Bull (and Raikkonen was on the Red Bull payroll). Petrochemical companies are unlikely because the big ones in Scandinavia are mostly concerned with extracting oil and natural gas and supplying it to suppliers (and the suppliers are the “brands”), unless they can convince the likes of Gazprom and Lukoil to get involved (but they seem to prefer Russian drivers). And car manufactuers are unlikely because Williams has secured a new partnership with Renault. So their best bet would be telecom companies, but Nokia have already said no.

  12. Funny how the decline of Williams has coincided with an out and out businessman coming to the fore at Grove. Its a pure race team and should be run by racers, not sharp suits. Kimi and Rubens would be the ideal drivers but money talks.
    To hail the Reggie deal as a Parr success is rubbish, Reggie will sell anybody an F1 engine these days. Its the way to make money out of F1.

  13. @Prisoner Monkeys,
    your iner cynic is correct. Raikkonen was meant to drive in 2011 and got a large amount of moeny for not doing that.

    If he had got another drive in F1, elsewhere he would have only got part of the money. That is common contractual stuff, and I believe James Allan has confirmed/said that was it, and quite possibly a few other people. Autosport has mentioned it as well.

    I think Kimi just didn’t care and wanted to do something he thought he would enjoy more. He didn’t enjoy it as much. Tried NASCAR, sucked at it and doesn’t like losing. Who does? hrt… ba doom cha! and virgin..

    And now he obviously wants to go back to proper track racing and hence he is trying the Le Mans cars and visting an F1 factory. Seems simple and logical to me. If he gets both he can decide whether to Le Mans series or F1 or if only one comes through he just does that.

    If I wre Williams I would take him… look at Team Lotus as an example.
    In theory they have nothing Virgin and HRT don’t have. Infact Virgin even has outside funding (Virgin) while Team Lotus is fully backed by the owner’s companies at the start.

    Pay two experienced drivers, bring in a big name guy for the tech, sign up with big name engines, and WCC title leading (at that stage) back end.

    The sponsors started coming, not just Fernandes’ companies, but also CNN and other name sponsors.

    If Raikkonen did join Williams I’m pretty sure we would see a boost to sponsorship of Williams, the car would be on screen MUCH more because of it.

    What we are seeing is, sinec BMW left for Sauber, is not much tv time. Rosberg/Nak wasn’t a big pairing, and the team went backwards. Give reason for the team to be on TV and sponsors will come as proven by other teams. Red Bull is another example.

  14. The main question would be: is Kimi still as fast as he used to be? We see Schumacher struggle and just starting to show some acceptable level of performance after 18 months back in the sport, and he is much more committed to the sport than Kimi will ever be — although Kimi is a lot younger.

    Also, recent photographs of Kimi show that he has put on a lot of weight; will he have the motivation to work himself back to fitness?

    This idea of Kimi at Williams doesn’t seem like such a good idea to me… There are faster young drivers out there, including some with significant amounts of sponsor money. Williams would be better off hiring one of them and attract less media pressure.

  15. I’d quite like to see Raikkonen in a Williams. It may well not work out and it may well be a disaster to get rid of Rubens but Rubens doesn’t exactly excite or inspire me somehow.

  16. @Forzaminardi: With all due resopect, I do not understand why Heidfeld is still held in such high regard, modest driving skills and zero leadership skills.. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and everything but… Heidfeld leading the resurgence of Williams after being canned by “Newbie Boullier” – I just don’t get it.. And Rubens input on Williams 2011 car have clearly gotten them nowhere – Parr may not be brilliant (I wouldn’t know) but when you’re in a hole, you should stop digging – I think he understands this… Anyhows, hope everyone has a great weekend!


  17. I’m certainly not anti-Rubens, he seems like a favourable chap and has proven he can drive very close to the boys at the front but I don’t understand the passionate views of my fellow blog readers above (and on the other posts) in his favour.

    Notwithstanding my scepticism about the realism of a driver leading a team, I cannot reconcile the views people seem to have that Rubens is doing just this; that he is a great development driver, that he is the man to help bring them out of the current hole with the FACT that he is already there and has been for two years and they’ve gotten worse……..

    If the very worst is true about Kimi’s motivation and he is just interested in having fun and enjoying his life then even that is going to be a great short term boost to Williams. I think Kimi is a character and the viewing public like a character and the sponsors like what the viewing public like!

  18. 20 years milestone?! Next year would be 11 years. Even if he isn’t the old “shake a McLaren’s suspension to pieces with a flatspot” Räikkönen he’ll still mutilate his teammate. I, and I’m pretty sure 99% of people in the F1 paddock, know that.

  19. I don’t think the Williams will be fast enough to retain Kimi’s interest for more than a few laps.
    Strange that rallying did not work out for Kimi, (it proved exciting enough for Kubica) either the car was not fast enough or he was not good enough to go sufficiently fast to keep him hooked.
    Ironic that he may end up driving a diesel, of which there are now quite a few in LMS.
    Side note for anyone who is interested, the PSA (Peugeot Societie Automobile) quality system accreditation used also to be accepted and run by Renault their great rivals. Of course at my age PSA has a different meaning in one’s blood test, Peugeot, Citroen, Gefco etc do not come into it.

  20. Frederick and Shake n Bake (great name) – I just love Rubens that’s all. My passion for F1 has been build around his exploits and when he retires, part of my tenuous hold on youth will die. I happen to think he’d still do the business in the right car and that his technical input is peerless – I think this year’s collapse in form is due as much to the chopping and changing in the team and Rubens being sidelined a little as the Parr regime takes full control. But mainly the reason I am so passionate about this topic is that I’m passionate about Rubens. In a healthy, manly way of course…

  21. Kristian: i think the ’20 years milestone’ comment was referring to Rubens, not Kimi. And I disagree that Raikkonen would necessarily ‘mutilate’ his team mate. We only need to look at 2008, where he accumulated only 33% of the victory total of Felipe Massa, to refute that argument.

  22. “I think Kimi just didn’t care and wanted to do something he thought he would enjoy more. He didn’t enjoy it as much. Tried NASCAR, sucked at it and doesn’t like losing.”

    Sound theory, but it’s let down by the way Williams are going to have to spend a few years turning things around before Raikkonen could start winning. I’d say they’re going to need at least two years to claw their way back up. If Raikkonen is going to jump ship at the first sign that things aren’t going his way, then he won’t last ten minutes at Williams. And if he does go and then does an about-face, he’ll have wasted everyone’s time. Which is why I think Adrian Sutil is the safer option for Sir Frank. Maybe he’s not as fast as Raikkonen, but he’s got the commitment.

  23. @forzaminardi – that was a very entertaining post! I empathise completely. I will feel the same way when Webber departs the stage.

    @kristian – not sure the evidence supports that assertion mate……

  24. It’s fashionable to slate Raikkonen’s 2008 performance against Massa, but unreliability (remember that?) also played its part.

    I, for one, would be pleased to see him back.

  25. Williams is a plc not some 1970’s enthusiasts ‘passion club’ – they have shareholders to please with a dividend, so amateurist ‘they’re racers and shouldn’t have suits running the place’ is just plain ignorant.

    Looking at things from a different angle though…

    You take a very historic and significant team, float it on a market and it performs fairly poorly (-37% in 6m). This coincides with their worst season for a very long time. An ignorant racer may look at their staff, shrug and hope things may change next season. A pressured CEO however knows it means things have to change. So what can they do?

    Improve efficiency – Diversity operations, check. Loan resources and make tech alliances, check.

    Improve the race team – New engine, check. New staff, check. Big, significant drivers…

    Putting it frankly [sic] I don’t think Williams can afford to keep the same drivers.

  26. Joe,
    before I start to get my spirits up regarding KR’s comeback. I would like to ask you this. Is his management really negotiating with williams? or its just a rumor floating around. What do you think about kimi’s chances of actually coming back in a williams car? And lastly do you think he ll be up to speed.
    I know its wishful thinking but I do hope he comes back

  27. I never thought Raikkonen had lost any motivation in 2008. You don’t get ten fastest laps in a season without there being something wrong. I just got the impression he fell out with Maranello politics and wasn’t getting what he had asked for. Kimi being Kimi though, he doesn’t talk to the media about it.

    I always find it funny how for a driver that says pretty much nothing about himself publicly how so many commentators and journalists seem to know all about him or what has happened.

  28. Stuart Codling had a very interesting post on his blog a little while ago about Kimi’s rallying success or otherwise — essentially his thesis was that rallying looks like a fast-twitch, purely reactive form of sport (and that Kimi might have seen it as basically money for old rope), but that for winning pace it actually requires extensive swotting with the pace notes and eight- or ten-hour days in the cockpit almost continually, and that Kimi might have found it a bit too much like work.

    All of which makes sense, but it doesn’t bode well for Kimi getting along well at a team which makes its junior drivers do spells in the factory laying up carbon fibre (and making the tea for all I know). “FW expects that every man will do his duty” should be carved above the door of the factory. Unless Kimi has found unexpected reserves of commitment and discipline, it’s hard to imagine the relationship lasting.

    Then again, there are people who build a successful business, get bored, lose interest, sell out, and start again from nothing scrabbling to create something new — maybe Kimi has that mindset. If he does and if he sustains the motivation, Williams might really be onto something. Pulling Williams up from the mire to win championships again would be a much bigger challenge and greater accomplishment than stepping into a fast car at a top team and becoming WDC at the first crack…

  29. SG,
    you know I was kind of curious on this too and recall reading some Schumacher quotes in the french press …”we went down a development path suiting more Felipe’s driving style. as soon as we reverted Kimi got fast again etc”
    basically it all went down to kimi;s apparent inability to heat up tires in quali. I would not take for granted anything in the press but my guess is Ferrari choose Massa over Kimi somewhere in 2008 having already set Alonso as their next driver.
    politics came second but it might as well had came first, some would say it happened because they were italians but hey – I am not a journalist so I would not know.

  30. Sponsors I’m afraid Joe.

    Ferrari already knew Alonso was coming in 2011, with Santander I hasten to add, but during such economic strife as we had teams were scrambling to tie down long-term sponsors. Ferrari were paying Raikkonen more than just about any driver was getting paid in 2010… do whatever he wanted, apart from Formula 1.

    You don’t lay out that kind of money simply because of driver preference. It is a business, after all.

  31. I hope Kimi comes back. It would be a major coupe of Williams!
    A world champion, with a lot of skills, also in developing cars. Not known for it, but I remember that the engineers at McLaren said he was good at that.
    But stories about partying and not wanting to do too many sponsor-things have clouded the view. And of course that famous ice-cream…

  32. When it comes to Kimi and other racing, people are making a lot of comments and assumptions on subjects that they clearly know nothing about.

    Kimi has showed no interest in returning to F1, he has only showed interest in Lemans and rally. WRC is a very difficult from of racing, it presents more challenges for a driver then F1.
    Kimi skipped right to the top level of rallying most rallying drivers have been perfecting their craft for years in the lower series, in most cases it takes much longer to reach your potential as a rally driver then as a F1 driver. Take Latvala as an example he started rallying on a national level 10 years ago, he has been in WRC teams since 2006 and he is only now starting to realize or capitalize on his real potential, even though most people could see that he clearly had the potencial.
    Getting back to Kimi I think most WRC pundits can clearly see that Kimi has the potential to be a very good rally driver, but he needs experience, experience is essential in rally. Even so Kimi has actually done an amazing job in rally, especially this season. He has scored points so far in every single rally that he has competed in this year, something only Loeb and Hirvonen has managed, and the field is much more competitive this season.
    Kimi suffers mostly from the curse that his name is Kimi Raikkonen, if someone else with Kimi’s level of experience were producing the same results people would have raved over it. And the truth is many people in WRC have expressed what a great job Kimi is doing, but those comments are never copied on F1 sites. Take rally Finland as an example, how can you not think that someone who has 20 rallies worth of experience isn’t doing a great job when he manages to out pace an IRC champion?
    Kimi’s other problem is that he continuously have F1 people commenting on rally who clearly knows nothing about the subject and who sees rally or any other motorsport for that matter, as some sort of second grade event compared to F1. If someone really wants to know how Kimi is doing in WRC why not ask someone like Collin Clark?

    Same thing when Kimi tried Nascar, go and ask the real Nascar pundits and they will say that Kimi did a great job and really impressed quite a few people, as he debuted on a very difficult track which rookies wouldn’t usually debut on.

    Another misconception is that Kimi has no sponsors in WRC, that is also wrong but his sponsor are personal sponsors not team sponsors.

    When it comes down to it I just dont think Kimi is interested in F1, and there is also nothing to back up the claims that he isn’t interested in rally, people are making a lot of assumptions based on faulty logic, I can see him doing more rallying and perhaps a bit of Lemans next year.

  33. I assume Kimi’s thinking is to work hard at Williams in 2012 and impress the paddock, then get a seat at either McLaren or Red Bull for 2013 (since 3 of those 4 drivers have a realistic chance of leaving) and have a crack at the WDC. Sounds like a good plan to me.

  34. Prisoner Monkeys

    “My cynicism radar has also been set off by the way Raikkonen’s Williams visit co-incides with a downturn in Double-R Racing’s performance …”

    Your radar needs some re-calibration. My radar does not show any connection between the British F3 team (Which Kimi started with his manager Steve Robertson in 2004 and sold in 2010. They ran among others Bruno Senna) and Kimi’s recent visit to Williams.

  35. Hi Joe. Comebacks! Sometimes they work and sometime they don’t, but it must be very fashionable again!!!!! I personally think once you have pulled out “stay in the nursing home “as to speak. Give the young talent down the order a chance to grow and mature. Who really cares about six worldchamp drivers in the field. I would like to see the next generation of young drivers challenging the current top six.Perhaps there is unknown young driver in the field that can pull Williams from the back of the field. As we all can see look at Vettel/Redbull. Who would of thought?Does it really need to be an old driver? I also hope Schumi realises its time that he returns back home and spends time with his family. Fully admire the guy and his achievements but sooner or later he will drop further down the field. Thats by two bits on bloody comebacks in F1.

  36. “I hope Kimi comes back. It would be a major coupe of Williams!” Aha! Williams/Kimi are going into the sports car business!

  37. Joe – perhaps with your insight and connections, you could explain why (other than the fact that he’s an ex-WDC) the sponsors would seemingly flock to Williams if they hired Kimi? Money is tight around the park these days so if you had plenty of cash to spend, you could negotiate a pretty good deal with a much better team rather than a struggling team like Williams.

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