Raikkonen leaves F1 to begin fresh quest with Citroën

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The Independent Online

Kimi Raikkonen is to switch from Formula One to the World Rally Championship for next season. It has long been speculated the 2007 world champion would turn his attention to rallying after leaving Ferrari at the end of the recent F1 campaign.

Raikkonen had hoped to return to McLaren, only for his apparent pay demands to scupper the move, resulting in the Woking-based marque instead signing reigning world champion Jenson Button.

With no other competitive drive on the horizon, Raikkonen's quest for new challenges means he will compete in 12 of the 13 rounds of the 2010 WRC, the only omission being New Zealand. The Finn will drive for the Citroë*Junior Team, joining reigning Junior WRC champion Sébastien Ogier in the Red Bull-backed squad.

"I always wanted to compete in rally, especially in the World Rally Championship at some point," said Raikkonen, who this year impressed on his rally debut in a WRC event in Finland driving an S2000 Abarth.

"Thanks to Red Bull, I have the opportunity to drive the best car of the series with the Citroë*C4. This is a very exciting challenge. I'm really looking forward to testing the car and taking it to the start of the first rally."

Raikkonen has signed a one-year contract, leaving the door open for a return to F1 in 2011 providing he can claim a competitive drive, adding: "We will see how it goes for the future."

Raikkonen joins Citroën's burgeoning stable of drivers that also includes factory stars in six-time world champion Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo.

Olivier Quesnel, the team manager, said: "We will continue to count on Sébastien and Dani to defend our world titles in 2010. We will also be prolonging our association with Sébastien Ogier, who showed outstanding potential this year. Last but not least, it is with immense joy that we welcome Kimi Raikkonen. We are very proud he has chosen Citroën."

Loeb has won the last six world rally titles and Raikkonen will have one of the most competitive cars in the C4.

The team said Raikkonen's co-driver will be compatriot Kaj Lindstrom, who partnered the now-retired Tommi Makinen to four successive world titles in the 1990s. Ogier will drive the junior team's other car; Loeb and Sordo will continue to drive for the main Citroen team.