Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will take a sabbatical from Formula 1 next year, his manager has revealed, following the collapse of talks with McLaren about a deal for 2010.
Raikkonen said last month that, in the wake of being released from his Ferrari contract, his only option to remain in F1 was with McLaren - because he wanted to be guaranteed a top-line grand prix car.
However, amid increasing speculation that Jenson Button is on his way to the British team, Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson revealed on Tuesday night that discussions with McLaren had come to an end.
"The options in F1 were with McLaren next season or not at all," Robertson was quoted as saying by respected Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, which has close links with the Raikkonen camp. "Kimi and McLaren were unable to reach an agreement, so he will not drive at the F1 level - at least not next year.
"A gap year means nothing for Kimi. He is more interested in fighting for wins and the world championship. F1 will miss Kimi. He worked hard over the summer - doing things in a Ferrari that only the best drivers are capable of."
AUTOSPORT understands that there were several stumbling blocks to a deal being completed with McLaren prior to the team finding out that Button was available and interested.
As well as a difference of opinion about wages, Raikkonen and McLaren were believed to not be in agreement about the number of sponsorship appearance days he should do, or about how free he was to do rallies.
With Raikkonen only interested in returning to F1 in a race-winning car, his best option for 2011 would appear to lie with Red Bull Racing - which has a theoretical vacancy for 2011 with Mark Webber currently only contracted until the end of next year.
Although it is not clear what Raikkonen will do next year, it is possible that he will focus his efforts on the World Rally Championship – while he sorts out an F1 return. Red Bull could be involved in his rally plans too.
The only thing that he will have to contend with is withdrawal from F1 but in terms of income, Ferrari will reportedly give him 17M if he sits out for a year, and 10M if he races for another team. Citroen Red Bull is a hefty sum for him to drive in WRC. If everything goes well in WRC, I reckon (reckon! haha they use it a lot in BBC commentating) we won't see him again in F1.
Rally may not be a good TV sport but looks like it's becoming more popular now that it's attracting top motorsports personalities. F1 drivers have driven there this year and there are also rumors of Valentino Rossi considering to do one.
Anyway, I'll continue watching F1 and see Button fly as number two. 2010 will be like a revelation year -- it will be proven how worthy a champion he is in equal machinery with the best. And I reckon (reckon!) we'll see him a lot on the podium (as he does well in a good car) but only after he follows Hamilton to the chequered flag. And let us not forget the Ferraris who are making a comeback. Forza Ferrari!