Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner insists it is not inevitable that Kimi Raikkonen will partner Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next season.
Mark Webber announced his plans to step away from Formula 1 ahead of the British Grand Prix this weekend, and Raikkonen has been installed as the favourite to take over from the Australian.
The Lotus driver has one year left on his contract and has admitted to holding tentative talks with Red Bull already.
Horner revealed earlier today that he has drawn up a three-man shortlist containing Raikkonen, and both Torro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, as potential replacements for Webber.
But despite the fact that 2007 World Champion Raikkonen, who shares a good relationship with Vettel, is being tipped to replace Webber, Horner remains adamant that the two Torro Rosso drivers are in with a chance of a promotion.
“We’re fortunate that we have a pool of talented young drivers at Torro Rosso to draw upon and of course we will gauge what else is available in the market place and Kimi Raikkonen is a driver we would be foolish to ignore,” he told reporters after Friday practice at the British Grand Prix.
“We’re going to take our time, it’s important that we make the right decision, we don’t need to be in a rush and we’ll evaluate the options that are open to us and try and make the best decision we can.
He added: “Let’s just be clear here, we’re not just looking at Kimi Raikkonen.
“We have Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne who are true contenders for that seat and we just need to take a bit of time to look at all the options available to us.”
Horner added that he hoped to make an announcement over who will replace Webber in the summer.
Amidst the rumours Lotus chief Eric Boullier says he is fighting to keep hold of the Finn, and says the team’s progression since its inception should be enough to convince him to stay put.
“We obviously want to keep Kimi, he will decide what is best for him,” he said. “He knows what he has with us.”