Lotus team boss Eric Boullier is hoping Kimi Raikkonen’s love for the environment created at Enstone will persuade him to spurn the amorous attentions of Red Bull.
Christian Horner yesterday made it clear Raikkonen is in the running for a seat that will become vacant at Red Bull at the end of the year following Mark Webber’s decision to quit Formula One.
It is effectively a three-horse race, with Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne also in the frame for a rare opportunity at the leading team.
Horner has conceded to receiving several texts from other interested parties, but as he stated: “The reality is, it’s probably between those three.”
That makes for an uncomfortable situation for Boullier and Lotus, who took a gamble initially to sign Raikkonen after he departed F1 under a cloud at the end of 2009 for a two-year sabbatical in rallying.
Lotus have not only made Raikkonen one of the top three highest-paid drivers in the sport, but also bent over backwards to keep him happy off track by limiting his sponsorship and promotional activities.
It seemingly now becomes a question of convincing Raikkonen Lotus can go on to match Red Bull, who are on course this season to win four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ crowns.
“Red Bull are chasing Kimi, and we obviously want to keep Kimi,” said Boullier, speaking at Silverstone ahead of the British Grand Prix.
“He will decide what he wants to do and what is the best for him, but he knows what he has with us. He can only guess what he could get with Red Bull, and obviously it is tempting to go there, but he knows what he has.”