Raikkonen now all but set to replace Massa at Ferrari in 2014

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Felipe Massa has told the world he will not return to Ferrari in 2014. That leaves one very likely replacement at the Scuderia, in the form of Kimi Raikkonen.

According to a BBC report, Raikkonen’s deal with Ferrari was “said to be completed on Monday.” That would see Raikkonen back at the team where he won the 2007 Formula One World Championship, but was dismissed after the 2009 season for Fernando Alonso.

Raikkonen reportedly was paid handsomely by the team to leave following that troubled 2009 campaign, a year in which the Ferrari F60 was arguably one of the worst cars the team has produced in the last 20 years. Even still, Raikkonen was able to take it to victory at Spa-Francorchamps after a race-long battle with Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella – a result that helped slot Fisichella into Ferrari as Massa’s injury replacement.

The Finn took a two-year sabbatical in 2010 and 2011 before returning to F1 with Lotus. Raikkonen has won twice on his return, Abu Dhabi a year ago and the season-opener at Melbourne this year. Notably, he completed a record run of 27 consecutive points-scoring finishes from Bahrain 2012 through Hungary 2013 before retiring at Spa due to a visor tear-off issue.

The Lotus has not been the fastest car on the grid this year but has done well on its tires. While Raikkonen staying there would better keep the team in contention, he’s weighing his options as a free agent because technical director James Allison has left for Ferrari and the team itself is rumored to be having financial difficulties.

Assuming Raikkonen now goes to Ferrari, the Scuderia would have two World Champions in its stable with Fernando Alonso in the second seat. The BBC suggests Nico Hulkenberg would move into Lotus, then, to replace Raikkonen.

Kimi may well know what he’s doing; he’s been linked to the team already and three-time World Champion Niki Lauda has encouraged Ferrari to pull the trigger. Alonso said he’d be satisfied with anyone.

If he rejoins the Scuderia as is rumored, then the pressure will be on them to build a car worthy of its two talents in the driver’s seat.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”