Lotus is pushing Kimi Raikkonen to make a quick decision over his future.
The 2007 world champion has admitted “small talks” with Red Bull have already taken place, but both Raikkonen and his potential 2014 boss Christian Horner are saying they are in no rush to finalise a deal.
A different message is now emerging from Lotus.
“He (Raikkonen) knows that we need to plan ahead for 2014,” team boss Eric Boullier told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“We assume that before the summer break he will decide whether he is staying or not,” the Frenchman added.
Far from issuing a ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum, however, Boullier is arguing strongly that Lotus – with a new 35 per cent co-owner and therefore solid financial backing – is the right place for introvert Raikkonen, who despises most non-racing aspects of formula one.
“We are fighting hard to keep Kimi,” he said. “We’ll do everything in our power. Personally, I’m absolutely convinced that he’ll be in our car next year.”
Bild correspondents Nicola Pohl and Helmut Uhl said Red Bull can surely offer the Finn more money and probably a faster car, but for the reticent and wealthy Raikkonen, that might not be everything.
“Kimi is not for sale,” Boullier insisted. “He doesn’t need more money, so Red Bull can’t just buy him.
“I know what goes on in his head and money does not play the most important role. We’ve built our team around him, and what he needs.
“He likes the people here, the engineers, the management. Kimi loves his freedom more than anything else, and unlike any other team he gets that here in combination with a good car.”
Boullier therefore questioned whether Red Bull is the right place for Raikkonen.
“First, Red Bull is built completely around Sebastian Vettel. Kimi will have to slot in behind the guy who has given them three world championships.
“The other thing is that he has to do a lot less PR days with us, compared to at least 20 or 30 at Red Bull. That’s why he’s happy here,” the Frenchman added.
“Kimi wants to beat Vettel, but not at any price,” Boullier said. “All I can do is put the arguments in favour of Lotus on the table for him.”