Monday, September 20, 2010

Renault ponder Raikkonen deal

Renault's F1 chairman Gerard Lopez says the team will have to weigh up the cost before deciding whether to sign Kimi Raikkonen.

Earlier this week, the news broke that Raikkonen, who left F1 at the end of 2009 in favour of joining the World Rally Championship, had approached Renault enquiring about a 2011 race-seat.

Renault, though, do not have the financial clout to offer Raikkonen a contract in line with what he was earning during his days with Ferrari.

Added to that, the team in fact signed a paying driver this season in Vitaly Petrov, who brought in much-needed funds through his Russian backers.

As such, Lopez admits the team needs to weigh up the cost of signing a big-name, big-salary but big-draw card driver like Raikkonen versus another paying driver.

"It's funny because people now think things are going well and we're going to change drivers," Lopez told Autosport.

"There's a certain rally driver that wasn't interested in Formula 1 but now has made contact and is interested in coming back to F1, funnily enough with us, but we're not there yet.

"It's very important (the financial considerations). As I said, we use Formula 1, and we have to push our team to succeed because we use the platform to do business. And you know, it's a question of image.

"People like to do business with winning teams, so it goes hand in hand. For us still, the main consideration in this outside of Eric's [Boullier] mission and the team's mission to start winning races again, is the business one.

"And it has become more important now that we've solidified the team, that we've found the sponsors, that we're bringing the sponsors, that we're doing whatever needs to be done.

"It's even more important now to build the team, to use that platform for the business side of it. And the fact that we're doing more and more deals with companies that come through Renault Formula 1 because we provide other things, I think it's even more important for 2011 than it was for 2010. In 2010 we had to rebuild. In 2011 we can focus on business."

As for Petrov's chances of retaining his race-seat next season, Lopez insists it's not about the money, rather it's about his ability out on track.

"It's not that Vitaly is a paying driver, because he's not, but certainly the sponsors that he brought or that came, which is Lada, have been very good sponsors. But Vitaly was not bringing the kind of money that people were saying.

"And he's a good driver. Vitaly was second in the GP2 Championship last year and could easily have won that championship if he hadn't had six failures last year. On top of all that, he is a driver that has 250 million Russian-speaking people that are convinced in him, so we'd be stupid not to assume that there is a business behind that.

"But we have to build the driver. He is to us a very important element, just as Robert [Kubica] is."

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