Tuesday November 27th, 2001
Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug believes that if the McLaren team can provide him with a fast and reliable car, Finn Kimi Raikkonen will prove his worth in 2002.
"I think Kimi will learn very quickly," Haug said in an interview with Sport-1. "He already showed his potential in his first year. If we give him a car that is fast and reliable, then he will show his class."
21-year old Raikkonen was hired by McLaren to replace compatriot and two-time World Champion Mika Hakkinen after an impressive year with the Ferrari-powered Sauber team, where he scored nine points despite having only competed in 23 single-seater races before making his Formula One debut.
Raikkonen was chosen over German teammate Nick Heidfeld, who after a dismal debut season with Prost in 2000, enjoyed a promising year with Sauber, scoring his first podium in Brazil and finishing in eighth place in the drivers' standings with 12 points.
Haug, however, revealed that Mercedes still have an option to sign the young German driver in the future.
"We still have the option to hire Heidfeld," added Haug. "We did not have an option on Kimi Raikkonen, so we hired him. We believe it was the right decision. It was not a decision against Heidfeld, but in favour of Raikkonen. Nick still has the time to improve."
Heidfeld will stay at Sauber in 2002, where he will be joined by young Brazilian Felipe Massa.
Published at 12:40:11 GMT