June 30, 2009
Raikkonen to debut in WRC in Finland. Meanwhile in Maranello...
I think it must be the first time since the time of Vic Elford that a top Formula 1 driver contested championship rallies. It certainly is the first time a Formula 1 World Champion does so. Very cool.
Raikkonen will drive an Fiat Abarth Grande Punto at the WRC Rally Finland and will have a very experienced partner in the right seat. Kaj Lindstrom was Tommy Makinen's navigator. Makinen's team is running the car Kimi will use. Raikkonen has previously driven two non championship rallies this year.
"Rally Finland is not going to be easy for sure," said Lindstrom. "The rallies we have done so far have been smaller events, a three-day WRC round is much longer and more intense than those national events.
"And it doesn't just start with the rally, we have two days to go through the recce and make the notes. Kimi makes very good pace notes, but there will be pressure on for the recce."
Lindstrom added that his driver's absence of gravel experience will also make his task tougher next month.
"He has competed on snow and asphalt, but never gravel, but we have tested on gravel," said Lindstrom. "But one of the hardest things for Kimi will be the speed of this event. Rally Finland and the roads used are so fast, like nothing we have done before - that does take time.
"But, let's not forget, this guy is a pretty good driver! He's very talented and I'm sure he will cope fine."
Meanwhile back in Maranello, rumors are more insistent that the Italian GP will see an official announcement of Fernando Alonso moving to Ferrari in 2010 through 2014. These rumors have been around for a while of course but looking at the state of affair at Ferrari and a chance of drivers in 2010 makes much sense. 2009 is written off, 2010 will be the start of a new era when Ferrari will likely make a huge effort to rebound after this year's disaster. Many have noticed how calm and philosophical Alonso has been in spite of his difficult Renault, I think the Ferrari contract in his pocket acted as very effective chamomile to calm his nerves.
Nobody is saying if Alonso would step into Massa's or Raikkonen's seat. That FIAT would allow Kimi to run WRC can certainly be taken either way: they like him enough to want him happy or they are showing him what his job will be next year. In either case, Ferrari will most certainly be looking to Sebastian Vettel as soon as he becomes available in 2011.