Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso were all free agents heading into the 2007 F1 season.
It’s not common in F1 to see the contracts of three legendary drivers expiring together at the end of the year. However, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Alonso’s F1 futures could very well have shaken the grid up.
Fans thought that Schumacher and Alonso’s contracts would be renewed. The former was well settled in Ferrari, and Alonso was winning everything at Renault. It was Raikkonen and his McLaren situation that created a domino effect the following season.
According to Business F1 Raikkonen was engaged in intense negotiations with McLaren boss Ron Dennis and the man involved in this was that Finn’s managed David Robertson.
Raikkonen’s entourage was pretty convinced he would stay at McLaren. However, Dennis figured that he would not have any other suitors in F1, and decided to push his luck with the discussions.
McLaren’s contract with Kimi Raikkonen was extremely complex
Robertson’s discussions with Dennis were fairly straightforward. They made these negotiations back in 2001 and the Finnish driver had no intentions of leaving the British outfit.
It included a $14 million dollar payment to Peter Sauber for McLaren to secure Raikkonen’s services. The first few years of this deal featured a modest salary, but it amounted up to a $45 million in 2006. The exact numbers are not clear, but it would have increased up to $70 million in 2009.
As Michael Schumacher retired for the 1st time in 2006, Martin Brundle asked Kimi Raikkonen why he didn’t go and watch the presentation to Michael from Footballer Pele 🇧🇷
Kimi’s answer was in typical Kimi fashion 😂😂😂😂💩
— Crash F1 (@CRASH_NET_F1) November 11, 2021
Dennis agreed to these massive amounts, but he did them in 2001. This was before the 9/11 terrorist attacks took a toll on the economy worldwide. As a result, he was desperate for some sort of reduction or change to the deal.
Ron Dennis wanted to decrease Kimi Raikkonen’s salary by 50%
Dennis wanted Raikkonen to stay at McLaren. The team was flying, and now that Renault’s departure from F1 was close, they felt they could have climbed to the summit. However, they wanted to reduce Raikkonen’s salary by half.
Robertson felt surprised that Dennis even came up with his. However, the McLaren boss did this because he was adamant that Raikkonen had nowhere else to go. Robertson, however was smart with his approach and made sure he had other F1 teams eying his client as well.
How Fernando Alonso was paid $16 million to replace Kimi Raikkonen
Robertson decided to talk to Ferrari about signing Raikkonen. The Scuderia were in a relatively bad place back then, but Raikkonen’s manager was sure this was solvable.
He believed that McLaren were heading towards a dark place, and were not treating the Iceman fairly. Then Ferrari boss Jean Todt was a bit apprehensive about brining him to the team but Luca Montezemolo was very keen on securing his services.
The fact that Dennis thought no other team would have Raikkonen became news around the paddock. This turned out to be a sticky situation for McLaren who had to secure a replacement for him, with the new season fast approaching.
Kimi Raikkonen vs Fernando Alonso, US GP 2021
— Blitz (@Blitz211846103) October 25, 2021
It was then that the option of Fernando Alonso joining the team opened up. Raikkonen’s departure from the team however, could only be made possible with Dennis getting Alonso on time. The Spaniard who was underpaid by the departing Renault, got offered a $16 million deal.
Raikkonen ended up joining Ferrari, and Michael Schumacher left F1 after the 2006 season. The Iceman delivered in his first ever season in Maranello by winning the Title. Till this date, he remains Ferrari’s last World Champion.