MOTORSPORT : Kimi Raikkonen’s manager claims the Finn was McLaren’s first choice to be paired alongside Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season – but failure to agree terms on a deal paved the way for reigning champion Jenson Button to get the nod.
Kimi Raikkonen’s manager claims the Finn was McLaren’s first choice to be paired alongside Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season – but failure to agree terms on a deal paved the way for reigning champion Jenson Button to get the nod.
McLaren, for whom Raikkonen contested 88 grands prix between 2002 and 2006, were viewed as the 30-year-old’s sole option to stay in the sport next season following his release from Ferrari, but the negotiations came to nothing and the Finn will now take a sabbatical from Formula One.
“Kimi was definitely their first choice,” Raikkonen’s manager Steve Robertson said of the McLaren talks.
“We’ve had many, many meetings with them. But they realised and we realised that we couldn’t find common ground. Then they started to look at other drivers.”
Raikkonen’s deal with Ferrari netted the Finn around £25million a year according to conservative estimates, and failure to reach a financial agreement with McLaren was part of the reason for the deal stalling, according to Robertson.
“We had many meetings with McLaren but we couldn’t find common ground on certain issues, and that is the reason he will not be racing in Formula One next year,” he told Sky Sports News.
“Obviously, financial [issues] were part of it, but there were certain other issues that I can’t really go into that didn’t enable us to do a deal with McLaren.”
Mercedes-Benz’s takeover of Brawn on Monday opened up another avenue of opportunity, but Raikkonen has nevertheless elected to walk away.
“Kimi feels that McLaren offered him the best chance to win the races and compete for the championship next year. He didn’t feel another team that’s available out there gives him that same opportunity,” Robertson continued.
“Kimi doesn’t have to do anything – he’s financially secure, he can pick and choose what he does, and he didn’t feel that outside of McLaren, the other teams that were available could give him the same opportunity.”