For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And this applies to the weird world of F1 as much as it does anything. Matters tend not to be dwelt upon; no sooner does something happen than all look ahead to what the implications will be. And so it was with Mark Webber's Silverstone announcement that he's off to sportscars next year, before you knew it focus shifted to who would plug the Aussie Grit-shaped hole at Red Bull (though for various reasons for a while almost no one had expected him to still be there next year anyway). And sure enough the Bulls' boss Christian Horner quickly stated that there are three candidates: the two Toro Rosso pilots - Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne - and Kimi Raikkonen.
|Kimi Raikkonen - in a |
perhaps not inappropriate hat
Credit: Matthias v.d. Elbe / CC
And it's one of those moves that no matter how far you dig it's hard to discover any show-stoppers: the temptations of a Red Bull to Kimi are obvious, given that the car has been the sport's gold standard for a number of years. From Red Bull's perspective the temptations of Kimi are obvious too: the Finn has established himself as one of the very best and most reliable F1 drivers in the contemporary age, and surely in a Red Bull he'd be good both for wins and for consistent points in chasing the constructors' title. Kimi you feel further fits the Red Bull brand perfectly; indeed he was sponsored by the company in his rallying sojourn. Of course, a potential impediment would be what Luca Montezemolo called 'two roosters in the same hen house' resultant from pairing Kimi with Sebastian Vettel, but among the top drivers surely Kimi represents the lowest risk of all on this front, given his firmly apolitical and equanimous attitude. Further, while some have claimed that Vettel could veto the move, you'd imagine that had Seb not given it all his blessing it would never have been allowed to get this far (and, given the lingering existence of Seb-doubters, just perhaps Seb's keen to prove himself alongside him?). As for the Toro Rosso two, harsh though it sounds (but hey F1 is a harsh business) it's hard to argue that either pilot has made a consistent case for the step up - not yet anyway. And in any case Red Bull clearly feels no obligation to promote from within. To borrow Sherlock Holmes's maxim: eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
But another reason why I think that this makes sense is to do with Red Bull itself. Without being pejorative, Red Bull is not in F1 as its raison d'etre as Ferrari or McLaren is, it is there as part of the drinks company's PR. And even with winning all of the time (or maybe even because of it) it may sense something of a law of diminishing returns from its F1 involvement. What better way to spice it all up than signing the popular Kimi, and in so doing creating a driver pairing that will get plenty of attention?
And as if to further underline that it's the wide acceptance that Kimi will end up at Red Bull next year, the conundrum of who is to fill his Lotus slot is already being wrestled with. There may even be two Enstone seats up for grabs, as Romain Grosjean continues to struggle to perform consistently. Anyone from the midfield teams downwards would fancy a Lotus switch: Paul Di Resta's been mentioned already; if Nico Hulkennberg doesn't get his Ferrari gig then you'd imagine he'd be of interest too. Though if Grosjean is indeed out on his ear one of the drivers' ability to bring money may become a consideration.