Friday, November 11, 2011

Sign Kimi, McLaren boss advises Williams

Williams should sign Kimi Räikkönen for next season, McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said Friday in a ringing endorsement of his former driver

"Try and sign him," he told a post-practice news conference at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when asked what advice he would offer team founder Frank Williams about the 2007 world champion.

"We all know he's quick," he added. "I think people underestimate how intelligent he can be.

"I hope that he's hungry, I'm sure that he hasn't lost the capability to thrill us in Formula One. I think it would be fantastic for Formula One."

Räikkönen, who won his title with Ferrari, quit Formula One for rallying at the end of 2009 but remains hugely popular with the fans.

He has confirmed talks with Williams about a comeback while that team's shareholder Christian 'Toto' Wolff has said the Finn is one of several options as a possible replacement for Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.

Frank Williams, attending the same news conference, said it was "not clear exactly" who would be in his cars next year.

"I'm sure (Venezuelan) Pastor (Maldonado) will be in one car, Rubens maybe. We haven't really made up our minds what we want to do before we talk to Rubens," he added.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali agreed with Whitmarsh, while recognising that Williams needed no advice.

"I know Kimi very well, he's very talented and very strong and if he wants to come back then for sure he has something he wants to show to everyone about him and the fact that he was the last world champion with us," he said.


Racetrack rivals agreed a Raikkonen comeback would also liven up the social scene.

"If Kimi decides to come back, I think the main difference for me will be that the parties after the races will be a little bit better," said Team Lotus's Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen.

Räikkönen, so often monosyllabic in his F1 news conferences, had an off-track reputation as a party animal.

Among other exploits, he once entered a powerboat race in a gorilla suit as 'James Hunt' and was photographed asleep on a bench with an inflatable dolphin outside a Spanish nightclub.

"I had a few drinks and danced. Why not?" Räikkönen was quoted as saying afterwards.

Michael Schumacher, the seven-times world champion whose place at Ferrari was taken by the Finn at the end of 2006, enjoyed some memorable post-season parties with Räikkönen.

The German, who made his own comeback last year after three years out, was reluctant to offer any advice but could see potential for entertainment.

"I would be very happy to see him back. We have had some very good times and I look forward for some on track and off track occasions -- it will be good," he said.

Getting back into the groove after a couple of years away might not be too difficult either.

"In the end, you think how much can you recall your potential. How much can you drive the car to its limit. That is the main concern that was answered right away at the first test," said the 42-year-old Schumacher of his own case.

"It took me probably 15 laps to sort of get back and drive the car, not at its full limit but close and from then on it is just a matter of time. I am pretty sure with Kimi he is capable of doing so."

Source: Reuters Sports

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