Red Bull name Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo & Jean-Eric Vergne as 2014 candidates
But Lotus boss Boullier suggests there's good chance Kimi might stay
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 28/06/13 3:00pm
With Webber having surprised even his Red Bull bosses by emphatically taking himself out of the running for one of F1's most coveted seats on Thursday, the rumour mill as to who his replacement might be has gone into overdrive.
Former World Champion Raikkonen is out of contract with Lotus at the end of the season and was already considered the favourite to replace Webber alongside Sebastian Vettel, even before the Australian's retirement news.
Indeed, the Finn himself confirmed to Sky Sports F1 for the first time in wake of Webber's confirmation that he had held "small talks" with Red Bull about the possibility of joining them for 2014.
Christian Horner, Red Bull's Team Principal, has now admitted to Sky Sports F1 that Raikkonen, along with Toro Rosso pair Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, are the three drivers in the frame.
"We want the fastest line-up that we can and Kimi's obviously an attractive option," Horner told Martin Brundle at Silverstone after opening practice for the British Grand Prix.
"The youngsters [Ricciardo and Vergne] are attractive as well. We want to take our time and evaluate the options available to us, but the reality is that it's probably between those three."
Asked if the in-form Paul di Resta - who Force India said this week could leave should a top team approach him for 2014 - could also be considered, Horner replied: "Obviously you've got to look at everything and everyone who's available. I'm not sure what Paul's situation is, but as I say, our focus will primarily be on those three guys."
However, while aware that Red Bull are making a serious play to entice his star driver to Milton Keynes, Raikkonen's current boss, Eric Boullier, suggested a move to the World Champions might not actually appeal to the famously laconic and laid-back Finn.
Asked by Ted Kravitz what Lotus needed to do to convince Raikkonen to stay, Boullier said: "I think we did it over the last two years. He just needed a little bit of reassurance about what the plans are for the future because we are in some ways a new team, at least new ownership, and so far we have respected our ambition and our plan.
"So just [it's about] sitting around the table. I know Red Bull is pushing hard to get him on board but I'm not sure this is very comfortable and maybe not as logical for Kimi to go there."
Furthermore, while Boullier acknowledged the appeal for Raikkonen of joining the grid's pre-eminent outfit, the Frenchman intriguingly claimed that his driver had assured him that he had no reason to leave if they could prove themselves capable of becoming serious Championship contenders.
"Red Bull is attractive; it's a World Champion team with a lot of resources," Boullier acknowledged.
"But Kimi's mind is more about having a more comfortable environment. Obviously a winning car [as well]. So if he's convinced we can keep our progress to be a title-contending team in the future, he has no reason to go there and he already confirmed with us [that would be the case]."