Raikkonen confirms year off from F1

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The Independent Online

Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen confirmed today that he will take a one-year sabbatical from Formula One next season and said it's uncertain whether he will return in 2011.

The Finnish driver, who was replaced by Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, said he prefers to take a year off and wait for spot with a competitive team after failing to reach a deal with McLaren. McLaren opted to sign current champion Jenson Button to partner Lewis Hamilton.

"I could not agree terms with McLaren so I have decided to take a one-year sabbatical," the 2007 world champion Raikkonen told F1's official Web page. "And to be honest, I will only return in 2011 if a competitive drive is available."

Raikkonen said he has not held talks with Button's former Brawn team — now Mercedes GP — which is still looking for a replacement. The 30-year-old Finn said he saw McLaren as his "best opportunity to win races and challenge for the drivers' championship."

Raikkonen said he thinks Mercedes will look to field two German drivers after buying out the British team.

"I do not want to race just to make up the numbers. That does not interest me," Raikkonen said. "But there's a lot of time until then, so let's wait and see what happens in the months ahead."

Button reportedly came at a lower price for McLaren, but Raikkonen said he is worth his asking price.

"I feel a good driver can make a bigger difference nowadays. If you look at how close the whole grid was this year, if a driver can lap two-tenths faster that is worth many positions on the grid," he said. "That could easily be the difference between winning and losing."

Raikkonen said he would likely look at competing in rallying while spending more time with family and friends next season. At the same time, he said he was "very keen to return" to the circuit.

"I have enjoyed my time in F1 and I still have ambitions," he said. "The door is open. Let's see what the future brings."