What Happens When Things Look to Calm Down, and Decisions Might Be Made
9:15am EST — The Daily Mirror is reporting that Kimi Raikkonen has signed “an outline agreement” to return to McLaren in 2010, as soon as he can get his current employers to pay the entirety of his 25 million euro contract for 2010. Of course, McLaren are disputing this, saying in their official Twitter account “there have been a lot of questions and rumors about our driver line-up for 2010…Don’t believe everything you read. Be patient. We are. We haven’t made any decisions yet.” Of course, if Raikkonen were to leave Ferrari, it would free up a much-needed race seat for the projected addition of Fernando Alonso. Unless, he is somehow tied into the Renault race-fixing scandal for which he has been called to testify in Paris Monday, as James Allen has written.
This silly season’s game of musical chairs has been particularly frantic, with four new teams on the grid next year and constant mutterings of reshuffling of current drivers with the early dominance of Brawn and Red Bull, and the disheartening pace of F1 stalwarts like McLaren and Ferrari. Granted, even the championship leaders have fueled speculation as to their driver line-up for 2010, with Jenson Button in a pay dispute where he wants to be paid what he was before he cut his pay to help the financially struggling team at the beginning of the season, though Button “would like to stay” and is “completely happy” at Brawn. Also difficult are the rumors that Brawn would be replacing Rubens Barrichello, possibly with Nico Rosberg to ensure a German driver at the soon-to-be heavily sponsored Mercedes team. If Raikkonen does move to McLaren (supplanting Heikki Kovalainen, who would then need a race seat), Mercedes would push for a German driver at its other team.
To be clear, there are few driver contracts that are clear-cut. Lewis Hamilton will stay at McLaren. Giancarlo Fisichella will transfer to reserve driver for Ferrari and effectively retire. Sebastain Vettel and Mark Webber have not been much discussed with leaving Red Bull (Vettel is likely staying, particularly if Mercedes can get dispensation to run another team with their engines). There has been no mention of Adrian Sutil leaving Force India. Of the twenty drivers currently about to strap into a car for the Singapore GP in one week, these are the only ones who seem to be staying seated for Formula1 musical chairs. Contracts will continue to be bought and shifted for weeks for current teams, and months for the new ones. Stay tuned in and don’t forget, the music will stop soon enough.