After weeks of speculation, Red Bull appear to have drawn a step closer to deciding Mark Webber’s replacement for 2014 and beyond. Since the Aussie announced his pending retirement prior to the British Grand Prix, the team have been frantically calculating who would be the best partner to Sebastian Vettel in the years to come. While many drivers had been suggested as possible candidates, the team stated that either Daniel Ricciardo or Kimi Raikkonen would claim the precious seat. However, a recent statement from Kimi Raikkonen’s management suggested that Red Bull talks broke down three weeks ago; The Finn is no longer in the running for the seat. Consequently, it now looks as though Daniel Ricciardo is about to gain his big break, however, it is not quite that straightforward.
It was of course widely believed that Kimi Raikkonen was almost guaranteed the Red Bull seat. Everything suggested that this appointment would take place – The Finn’s contract at Lotus expires at the end of this season; Suggestions had been made that the team had failed to pay Kimi during their period of financial struggles and Raikkonen already possesses ties with Red Bull personnel following his stint in the WRC. However, talks have inexplicably been unsuccessful.
While Lotus have suggested that they will strive to keep hold of the Iceman for at least another season, it seems to be an impossible task. Kimi has supposedly requested more money from the team, while his current wages have proved to be a strain on the team’s resources. Meanwhile, the failed payment fiasco which was disputed around the time of the British Grand Prix, could have caused a suspected breakdown of the relationship between Kimi and Lotus. With a move to Red Bull now seemingly inoperative, the Finn will now consider his options and if recent reports are correct, Ferrari may well be on his road map.
Raikkonen left the Scuderia in 2009 as he headed for a change of scenery in the form of the WRC, yet his relationship with the Tifosi is certainly a positive one following Raikkonen’s 2007 Championship triumph at the wheel of the scarlet red machine. Undoubtedly, the team will be able to meet Raikkonen’s sizable wage demands, due to their lucrative position with the commercial rights holder, CVC. However, would the Raikkonen – Alonso dynamic work, or will this issue be averted even if the Finn arrives at Maranello.
It cannot be dismissed – Fernando Alonso’s relationship with Ferrari is at breaking point and while suggesting an imminent divorce is currently extreme, it is certainly not an impossibility. If Raikkonen was to arrive at Ferrari, Fernando may seek pastures new, in the knowledge that Kimi would not share Felipe Massa’s standing within the team as undisputed number two. If Daniel Ricciardo’s fast track to Red Bull is to be threatened, Fernando Alonso could be the man to threaten it.
Before conclusions are made, I do firmly believe that Ricciardo will drive for Red Bull in 2014. However, the team have today announced that they are to delay the announcement of their 2014 driver line-up, which was initially expected to be made during this weekend. Could this be a deliberate ploy be Red Bull to tease journalists? Or, are they considering Fernando Alonso’s availability? Undoubtedly, a driver line-up of Vettel and Alonso would surly spell fireworks – and a monumental implosion at Red Bull!