Kimi Raikkonen’s manager moved pieces brilliantly around the paddock to get Raikkonen a seat in Ferrari pushing Michael Schumacher out.
Kimi Raikkonen’s manager David Robertson played the 2007 season’s drivers’ market brilliantly to get Raikkonen a seat in Ferrari and replaced Michael Schumacher.
At the end of the 2006 season, the contracts of the three best drivers in the world – Michael Schumacher(Ferrari), Fernando Alonso(Renault) and Kimi Raikkonen(McLaren) were coming to an end.
No one had expected any of these drivers to move from their incumbent teams as they were well settled. Schumacher had won five championships with Ferrari with no plans of retirement.
Another Ferrari clown show made me think back to when Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn were at their brilliant and tactical best in Hungary 24 years earlier. This latest debacle shows a fast car and driver lineup is nothing without the right people at the top #HungarianGP #C4F1 pic.twitter.com/R4StvERlB6
— JR (@J_R_2018) July 31, 2022
Alonso was delivering an extraordinary performance with Renault and the French team’s boss Flavio Briatore was his manager as well. Raikkonen was coming to an end of his contract. But he had options to renew it and nowhere else to be on the grid.
According to BusinessF1, Robertson sat down with McLaren’s boss Ron Dennis in 2005 to discuss the future of the Finnish driver. But he had not comprehended Raikkonen’s departure from McLaren after the 2006 season.
Kimi Raikkonen’s complex $45 Million contract with McLaren
Dennis had the option to renew Raikkonen’s contract further into the future. Although this option stemmed from a complicated original contract that Dennis and Raikkonen had signed for the latter’s services.
As per reports, Dennis had paid a rumoured $14 Million as compensation to Sauber to buy Raikkonen’s services for McLaren. The contract included – two years at a modest salary and then three years for a much larger retainer culminating in the $45 million he was being paid in 2006.
It was up to Dennis to renew the contract and continue paying an escalating salary in the future. It was rumoured that this would lead to Raikkonen receiving at least $60-70 Million a year by 2009.
But Dennis did not take up the option and left Robertson surprised. Dennis believed that Raikkonen had nowhere to go. Therefore he could cancel his commitment and discuss a much more sensible retainer with Robertson for the Finnish driver.
How Robertson played the F1 paddock and saw Michael Schumacher retire
However, Dennis was unaware of how skilled Robertson was in such dealings. Raikkonen’s manager was an extremely canny individual. He had the reputation of being able to read the psyche of the team principals in order to deal with them effectively.
Roberston knew that things were a little unsettled inside the McLaren garage. He found out that Adrian Newey was leaving and Nick Tombazis might follow his steps.
After knowing Dennis’ plan to not use the option, Robertson considered his choices and went to Ferrari. Robertson knew that Ferrari’s decline in performance was not because Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne had suddenly become bad engineers, it was mostly tyre related.
He requested a meeting with both Montezemolo and Todt as he thought a conversation with the latter alone would not be much fruitful.
Robertson sensed the vendetta between the two Ferrari officials as he presented Raikkonen as an option for the 2007 driver line-up.
Todt had no problem with Raikkonen being on the team but he did point out that Schumacher might not want him as a teammate. Meanwhile, Montezemolo was more than keen to get the Finnish driver.
According to Business F1, “Robertson spoke privately to Montezemolo. Soon the two men agreed to sign Räikkönen to an option in Ferrari’s favour for a year, and to pay for the privilege.”
This later developed into a massive civil war within Ferrari. Schumacher even gave the ultimatum to Montezemolo that it would be either Raikkonen or him in the 2007 season. But it did not scare the Ferrari chairman and Schumacher ultimately retired even though he did not want to.