The only thing faster than Silverstone’s
Copse corner is the game of musical drivers’ seats currently under way that will
significantly shuffle the pack in 2007.
“Iceman” Kimi Raikkonen appears to be
circling more seats than any of his rivals. While under contract to McLaren and
with a Prancing Horse-emblazoned letter of intent in his pocket, the Finn met
with Renault boss Flavio Briatore at the Nurburgring to receive their
sensational $US143 million offer of a seat until 2011.
Quietly, Briatore knows he won’t pull it
off. Waiting in the Renault wings, however, is Flav’s Plan B: another talented
Finn whose name sounds like Kimi Raikkonen if you’ve had a few too many
Bitburgers – Heikki Kovalainen. In truth, Kimi’s future is genuinely undecided.
Then there’s the seven time world champion,
Michael Schumacher, who can’t seem to decide whether to dance quicker to the
musical chairs or just sit the whole thing out. That said, observers in the
Nurburgring paddock detected a new spring in his step after reacquainting with himself
with the winner’s uber-expensive Mumm champagne to the “Schumi-Schumi” chants
of red-shirted German fans.
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Dodgy rumours of moves to the unlikeliest
of destinations – probably spread by his “Mr 20%” manager Willi Weber – can be ignored.
The official line is that he hasn’t decided, but on the desk in his study back
in Vufflens-le-Château is a generous contract that’ll keep him in red for the
time being. All that’s missing is a signature.
His 2007 stable-mate, of course, is another
matter entirely, and the queue at the door is impressive. Flashy MotoGP
champion Valentino Rossi has recently spent a lot of time testing scarlet cars,
but whether he’ll trade in a gold-plated salary for an apprenticeship against
rivals who drove go-karts almost before they walked, is a questioned
Surely, Rossi and Raikkonen are – like
everyone else – kneeling down at nights hoping Schumacher’s decision finds the
same sort of pace his Bridgestone boots did in Nurburg. When it does, the music will stop, and 2007
will become a whole lot clearer.