Raikkonen talks confirmed, but Bianchi on list
Williams shareholder confirms team is talking to Kimi Raikkonen - but has 'aggressive' alternatives lined up just in case....
Despite confirming that it is in talks with former world champion Kimi Raikkonen about one of its seats for 2012, Williams already has its eye on possible alternatives to the Finn, adding weight to claims that Rubens Barrichello will not be retained for a third season.
The Brazilian looks to be the odd man out in a possible four-way fight for the ride alongside Pastor Maldonado, whose Venezuelan sponsorship looks certain to keep him in the Grove line-up for a second year. Raikkonen, meanwhile, has finally been confirmed as a candidate for the seat, after weeks of silence from Williams, while GP2 frontrunner Jules Bianchi has also been mentioned as an alternative to the 32-year old Finn.
Christian 'Toto' Wolff, a major shareholder at the former world champion team, told Austria's Kronen Zeitung that Williams was seriously considering Raikkonen for 2012, but acknowledged that there was still some way to go before both sides could agree on a deal. The 2007 world champion is understood to be asking for a bigger financial package than the cash-strapped Grove outfit can provide, although rumours of a possible sponsorship deal with a Qatari bank may help sway the decision in Raikkonen's favour.
"It's true, the Kimi Raikkonen file is on the table," Wolff confirmed, "The story is not for show, we are negotiating seriously, but it is only one of several options."
Among the alternatives to employing Raikkonen, who has spent the past two years in the World Rally Championship after apparently becoming bored with the off-track demands of F1, is GP2 racewinner Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman is currently among Ferrari's stable of young talent, but is managed by Nicolas Todt, who also looks after Maldonado's F1 affairs.
"There will be a strategic decision, [and] there is another aggressive option with the boy Jules Bianchi," Wolff confirmed, "[Current Williams tester] Valtteri Bottas is worthy of consideration at least for Friday's practice."
Potential Force India refugee Adrian Sutil has also been connected to a place at Williams, and could bring vital backing from Medion to the British team. Force India, however, has yet to reveal its plans for next season, despite Sutil asking for a quick decision in order to give himself a better chance of finding employment for 2012 should he be ousted in favour of Nico Hulkenberg.
Raikkonen, who will be contesting this weekend's Wales Rally GB as part of his 2011 WRC campaign, has also remained tight-lipped about the speculation linking him to Williams.
"There are many different options and of course a lot of speculation," he told F1 Racing magazine, "Until something is certain, there is no point in speculating because it could go any way. To be honest, I don't know myself yet."
Barrichello also claims to be in the dark about Williams plans and, having been linked to one of the two seats at Renault for next season, has called on the Grove team to make its intentions towards him known as soon as possible.
"Williams told me they would like to make a decision before Brazil, so I hope at least that is a positive," he told reporters recently