Räikkönen and Williams: A winning combination?
It's an attention-grabbing headline: Kimi Räikkönen to make Formula One comeback with Williams! But for both parties, there is cause to hold back.
What are the arguments for signing up with Williams? The team is trying desperately to revive the glory of former years, so what could be a better statement of intent than to recruit an ex-world champion? Since Räikkönen may well have indicated that he would be prepared to reduce his salary expectations to drive for Williams, the team could even earn money with him – after all, a former champion by the name of Räikkönen would attract sponsors or convince existing backers to sink more cash into the brand.
Since Kimi's last race in Abu Dhabi in 2009, a lot has happened – KERS is back, DRS has arrived on the scene and the 2011 Pirelli tyres have been causing problems, even for such established drivers as Mark Webber. Not to mention Michael Schumacher who, after a three-year break, has been unable to rekindle the speed he had in his prime. Could Räikkönen get straight back into his stride?
This is the question that Williams have to ask themselves. The example of Schumacher should be warning enough and should sow the seeds of doubt – after all, in his last season with Ferrari, Räikkönen was already being outperformed by Felipe Massa. And with all respect to the personable Brazilian, he is no high-flyer – when you put him alongside a world-class driver such as Fernando Alonso, he starts to look average.
But the biggest question mark against the Iceman is probably his suspect motivation. Is he the sort of man to fight for every point when he is languishing somewhere in the midfield? And how would he react if he were being chased down by a Lotus (or a Caterham in 2012)? After a few races, the veteran Räikkönen might quickly lose interest. He and his team would then have a big problem on their hands.
Despite the best efforts of the new technical team, including the likes of Mike Coughlan, Mark Gillan and Jon Tomlinson, it is unlikely that Williams will be barging its way into the Top 4 in 2012. Having a sixth ex-champion on the grid (and Kimi Räikkönen in top form) would be guaranteed to add extra sparkle to Formula One racing, but is the new Kimi prepared to knuckle down to the hard work of building up the team after his recreational spell in rallying?