Kimi Raikkonen ‘in line for shock F1 return with Williams’
Speculation suggesting the 31-year-old could join Williams heightens after "private visit" to team's factory
Former Formula 1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen could make a shock return to the sport with Williams, according to reports.
The former McLaren and Ferrari driver reportedly visited the team’s factory, played down by Williams as a “private visit” – but they have not ruled out signing him for 2012.
The 31-year-old Finn ended his F1 career at the end of 2009, when he switched to the World Rally Championship after Ferrari replaced him with Fernando Alonso.
But the 2007 world champion is understood to have sounded out the struggling British team about a return.
Raikkonen would replace veteran Rubens Barrichello”“despite the Brazilian wanting a 20th season in the sport”“to partner Venezuelan youngster Pastor Maldonado, whose sponsorship with his national oil supplier should guarantee him a drive with Williams’ finances far from healthy.
With thirteen races gone, Williams have endured their worst season in the sport. After this weekend’s race in Singapore, the Grove-based team will begin a transformation of its technical staff as former McLaren engineer Mike Coughlan returns to the sport, with current chief technical officer Sam Michael taking a break before he joins McLaren at the start of 2012.
Raikkonen’s wage demands could pose a problem, as was the case when he was linked with a move to Renault and Mercedes in recent seasons. But with new backers looking to get into F1, the attraction of having a former world champion in the team could work in their favour.
It is a curious move for Raikkonen, who has come to admit that he is not able to match the pace of the established teams in WRC, and it would be a significant step down from his McLaren and Ferrari days in F1. But with the top four teams already locked out for 2012, his options of a competitive F1 drive are limited.
Renault could also be a possible destination for Raikkonen if Robert Kubica fails to return from injury, and the team decide to dispense with Vitaly Petrov or Bruno Senna.
Senna has also been linked with a possible move to Williams – the team his uncle Ayrton was driving for when he suffered a fatal crash at Imola in 1994.