Pit Stop – Kimi in Demand – By Lewis Brearley

This week Kimi Raikkonen’s management are having a series of meeting with the Lotus team owners, ostensibly to discuss Kimi’s contract extension, but in reality in order to hear persuasions for Kimi to stay.

The timing of the meeting is fine for Lotus, having just powered Kimi to second place in the German grand prix, finishing less than a second behind Sebastian Vettel driving for Kimi’s other prospective employers, Red Bull.

Kimi, as is the case for probably all the drivers on the grid, is enamoured by the promise of driving a Newey-machine; the title-winning Red Bull team having openly sounded out the Finn as a replacement for Mark Webber.

That combined with the challenge of going head to head with a triple world champion is sure to entice one of the best competitors in the history of modern F1.

However, the plusses of being a Lotus driver mean the decision isn’t so straightforward. Less media and corporate days than not just Red Bull, but all of the big teams, give the laconic Finn plenty of space and it’s a relationship he highly enjoys.

Add in the obvious pace of the Lotus E21, as demonstrated on Sunday, and it means plenty of sleepless nights for Kimi.

Kimi’s main doubt about staying with Lotus is that he isn’t convinced that the team can remain as title contenders on a consistent basis.

Indeed it is true that Lotus have a smaller budget than other title contending teams Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes and that they have rarely shown Red Bull rivalling pace this season, with one win to Red Bull’s four.

Lotus though will be eager to point out that they have performed well enough for Kimi to take one win and that he currently lies third in the championship, above Mark Webber – a Red Bull driver – and both Mercedes drivers. This, in addition to the fact that they developed well enough last season that they were the same delta behind Red Bull at the final race in Brazil as they were at the start of the season.

But this is why Kimi’s pure racing instinct leaves him still a distance away from putting pen to paper. “Behind Red Bull.” Not level. Not at the very front where he wants to be.

Events on Sunday perhaps made Kimi’s decision even more difficult. For the first time since Australia Lotus showed pace which was probably just a tad quicker than Red Bull, but still a Red Bull won. Sebastian Vettel’s classy victory, in which he defended impeccably from both Lotus cars and aced the fast laps when needed, takes him to 30 wins, one behind Nigel Mansell who took ten years to achieve such a number.

And perhaps more ominously for his championship rivals, 157 points, 47 more than he had at the same point last year; and 41 ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

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