Kimi Raikkonen’s age played against him as Red Bull made its decision about who should replace Mark Webber in 2014.
That is the claim of Dr Helmut Marko, who as team owner Dietrich Mateschitz’s right-hand man had arguably the most powerful voice before the reigning world champions ultimately signed the in-house talent Daniel Ricciardo. “We decided what was best for us in the long term, not just what was best immediately,” Austrian Marko told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper. “How old is Kimi, 34? Daniel is 24. And the contract is for three years. “So Daniel was the one who offered the best prospects for our team,” he added.
But Marko also acknowledged that 2007 world champion Raikkonen, who is actually 33, and his status in F1 as one of the established top drivers may also have counted against him. “Managing two drivers like Sebastian and Kimi would not be easy,” he admitted. “Each of them would have the obligation to be the best.” What, then, is expected of Australian Ricciardo? “He knows,” said Marko. “We hope that after three or four races he is able to start challenging Sebastian. “I’m not saying that he has to beat Vettel; what I hope is that he brings the points we need to win the constructors’ title.”
In that way, it is clearer why Raikkonen was not ultimately signed — Red Bull wanted a true replacement for Webber, not another Vettel. “We need Daniel to be as fast as Mark,” said Marko. “Sometimes Mark was on the same level as Sebastian, and sometimes even better. That’s what we want from Ricciardo.” For exactly the same reasons, it is now obvious why Red Bull’s flirtations with Fernando Alonso also came to nought. “We’ve never worked with Alonso,” Marko said, “and these combinations (two world champions together) requires knowledge about the character of the two drivers. “With some it is possible to work together, others not. From what we saw of Alonso we thought there was not a way to manage the relationship.”
Something else may also have played against the signing of Raikkonen, Marko hinted. “Only the best and most intelligent drivers will be at the front” in 2014, when the huge challenge of the new technical regulations will be in force. “They will have to figure out how to use the turbo engine without traction control, use the two energy recovery systems and manage the consumption of fuel,” said Marko. “We have an extensive simulation programme underway already to better prepare our drivers,” he revealed. “So this requirement also guided us in choosing Daniel.”
Info: GMM, Image: Lotus