MANAMA (Reuters) - Ferrari are prepared to play a game of ‘carrot and stick’ with Kimi Raikkonen to keep Formula One’s top Finn performing at his best.
The 2007 world champion, still Ferrari’s most recent title winner, is out of contract at the end of the year although the Italian team have an option of keeping him alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, who took on the job last November, told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix that the decision would depend on the 35-year-old’s performance on the track.
Raikkonen responded immediately by finishing second on Sunday for his first podium finish since he was at Lotus in 2013 and first for Ferrari since 2009.
“Every driver here in the paddock wants to drive for Ferrari, this is normal. Even guys that were quite a lot of time world champion. I’m happy with the drivers that we have,” commented Arrivabene afterwards.
“This does not mean that I am going to sign with Kimi tomorrow,” he added with a smile, having announced that he felt the real Raikkonen was back, the one who seized his championship against the odds with a string of late wins rather than the one who sometimes looked a bit bored in 2009.
“We are very clear. I repeat again: I said to Kimi, ‘look, It depends on your performance’ and he has demonstrated that he’s a great driver. So if you ask me now, does he deserve to renew the option, now today I am going to say yes.
“But if I am going to say yes, I don’t want the driver to fall asleep. So I want to keep him up. Kimi is giving the best when he is a bit in trouble,” said the Italian, making clear that the contract was the carrot being dangled.
“This is a psychological approach. So the paper at the moment is white. Sometimes I have to take the pen, then take it back. And Kimi is going to the podium.”
Raikkonen, who returned to Ferrari last year, has said he is enjoying life at Ferrari more than ever.
“This year is the best that I have had in any team; how the team works together, how people work together, how the atmosphere is and how things are being run. That tells you a lot. I’m very happy,” he said last week.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Amlan Chakraborty