Why Kimi holds the key to Jenson’s F1 future, CAR+ September 2015

Published: 02 September 2015

► Jenson's future in F1 shady
► Could he end up at Williams?
► Porsche move also possible 

Jenson Button’s F1 future hangs in the balance. He’s yet to be re-signed by McLaren for 2016 and his chances of getting another top seat are becoming increasingly dependent on the whereabouts of Kimi Raikkonen.  

The harsh reality is this: should Raikkonen remain at Ferrari for a third consecutive season, Button will be squeezed out of F1. The 2009 world champion is unlikely to be retained by McLaren, who plan to put a youngster – either Kevin Magnussen or GP2 sensation Stoffel Vandoorne – alongside Fernando Alonso, and driver continuity at Ferrari would prevent other front-running seats becoming available. 

Is there another scenario?

Should Ferrari replace Raikkonen with fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas – as has been mooted in the Italian press – Button could get a stay of execution. Williams would relish the opportunity to place Button alongside Felipe Massa, and the €12m buy-out clause in Bottas’s Williams contract would enable the team to pay the sums demanded by a former world champion.

For now, though, Button is in limbo. Ferrari are unlikely to decide on Räikkönen’s future until after the Belgian Grand Prix on 23 August and McLaren will not be pressured into making a decision – as they proved last year, when they announced their driver line-up in December. Adding to Button’s predicament is the recent upturn in Raikkonen’s performances. He outqualified Sebastian Vettel at Silverstone and he was destined for a solid second place in Hungary, until an MGU-K failure stopped his SF-15T. 

Is there any chance Raikkonen could stay?

Raikkonen also has three key allies at Ferrari: Vettel, technical director James Allison and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, who was a driving force behind bringing Kimi to the Scuderia, both in 2007 and again in 2014, when he was marketing boss of Ferrari’s principal sponsor Philip Morris. 

‘I really get along well with Kimi,’ says Vettel. ‘With him there’s no bullshit.’ 

‘Kimi is a brilliant racing driver, who continues to do an outstanding job for the team,’ says Allison. And, according to a source at Ferrari, Räikkönen’s chances of remaining with the team are now 50:50, whereas they were 60:40 against six weeks ago. Should he get the nod, the Williams opportunity is lost to Button and he may choose to rekindle negotiations with Porsche about a drive in the World Endurance Championship. Or he may seek a career in television. Either way,  Jenson deserves better.

The diagram which outlines all the speculation of where each F1 driver could find themselves for the 2016 F1 season

By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller

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