Salo tips Raikkonen to fight for Melbourne pole

Kimi Raikkonen has been tipped to fight for pole in Australia next month, and the world championship in 2013.

“I am quite sure Kimi will fight for the championship,” fellow Finn Mika Salo, now a commentator for the MTV3 broadcaster, said.

After two seasons in rallying, 2007 world champion Raikkonen returned to formula one with Lotus last year, finishing the championship third and winning in Abu Dhabi.

“Last year he was not able to consistently show good results all of the time, and the team made mistakes that should not be repeated,” said former Sauber and Ferrari driver Salo.

“It is clear that the Lotus has now improved. I have no doubt that, in Australia, Kimi will fight for pole position.”


Salo: Double DRS has slowed Lotus’ development

Lotus may have ploughed too much effort into its ‘double DRS’ system according to Mika Salo, who is worried his countryman Kimi Raikkonen could lose his shot at the 2012 title.

Usually a front-runner this season and still in the hunt for the title, Raikkonen qualified a poor twelfth in Singapore before battling up to sixth at the finish. Lotus has been pushing hard to ready its straightline speed-boosting ‘double DRS’ concept, which could finally make its grand prix debut at Suzuka next weekend.

“If the developments do not work in Japan, they will fall out of the championship battle,” former Sauber and Toyota driver Salo told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3. “I think it’s likely that they have focused so much on the double DRS that many other things have been missed, and it has slowed down the development of the car overall,” he said.


More rumours fly over 2013 race seats

The rumours surrounding race seats for next season keep flying.

At Monza, the latest rumour is that Lotus could possibly be looking to replace Romain Grosjean with Heikki Kovalainen, giving them two Finnish drivers.

“I don’t have a problem to race with anyone,” Kovalaninen told the MTV3 broadcaster, “so I don’t think it would be a problem to be with another Finn, but at the same time it’s pointless to speculate.”

However Lotus are not the only team that Kovalainen has been linked to – he has also been touted as a possible replacement for Felipe Massa at Ferrari.

“I’ve heard all the rumours, but at this stage I have nothing more to say,” he insisted. “Managers do their work and when they have something to tell you, they will tell you,” he added coyly.

Kimi Raikkonen has also been linked with Lewis Hamilton’s seat at McLaren. However Mika Salo, a former Finnish F1 driver turned commentator, doesn’t think there is anything to this latest rumour.

“Kimi is with Lotus. He is very happy there,” he insisted.

Salo has also heard the rumour linking Kovalainen with Lotus.

“The information is from a reliable source on the inside,” said the former Ferrari and Toyota driver.

Still, he thinks it’s unlikely Lotus will part with Grosjean, given his close relationship with the team’s boss Eric Boullier.

Salo reckons Ferrari is Kovalainen’s best option.

“Ferrari’s options are limited and Heikki knows it,” he said.

“When the Hamilton, Schumacher and Massa situation changes, things will begin to move (for everyone else),” added Salo.


Salo slams closed cockpit idea

Former F1 driver Mika Salo has slammed suggestions F1 should put a roof over the drivers’ heads.

The calls for better cockpit protection follow the terrifying first-corner crash at Spa last Sunday, when the now-banned Romain Grosjean’s flying Lotus came close to making contact with Fernando Alonso’s hands and helmet.

It has emerged that the working group in charge of looking into F1’s options is likely to approve some sort of forward roll-hoop or canopy for the 2014 rules.

“I think the idea of a closed cockpit is ridiculous for Formula One,” Salo, now a commentator for the Finnish broadcaster MTV3, said. “Actually, it would no longer be Formula One, it would be (sports car) prototypes.

“In my view it’s not a good idea to panic after an accident, especially when nothing happened (in terms of serious injuries),” the former Ferrari and Sauber driver added.


Salo warns Kovalainen about Sauber switch

Mika Salo has warned his countryman Heikki Kovalainen to think twice before switching to Sauber.

Finn Kovalainen, at the back of the grid with Caterham for the past three seasons, has been linked with a step up the grid to Sauber for 2013.

“It could be a good place for him,” former Sauber and Toyota driver Salo told the MTV3 broadcaster, “but it’s also a little risky. This is not a top team — their car is not necessarily always good,” the 45-year-old said. “At the moment, it is.”

After subbing for the injured Michael Schumacher at Ferrari in 1999, Salo returned full-time to F1 with Sauber but then left at the end of 2000.

“I know from my own experience,” said Salo, “that Peter Sauber is not the easiest person in the world to work with. Maybe it will be different when Monisha Kaltenborn is in charge, but how much will Peter Sauber be able to stay away from running the team?” he wondered.

Sauber’s current drivers Sergio Perez and – particularly – Kamui Kobayashi have been criticised in 2012 for not delivering on the full potential of the Ferrari-powered C31.

Peter Sauber refers to the car as the “best” in the team’s 20-year history. Chief executive Kaltenborn, however, said not only the drivers are to blame.

“The difficulties have been accidents, technical failures, strategies not working,” she told the FAZ newspaper.

And she is also quoted by Blick newspaper: “We need to improve our results sheet as quickly as possible. We have two very fast drivers in a learning process.”


Salo predicts Ferrari will drop Massa at end of season

Mika Salo, a Ferrari driver in 1999, has tipped his former employer to drop Felipe Massa at the end of the season.

Speculation about the seat alongside Fernando Alonso remains rampant, despite Mark Webber signing a new deal for 2013 with Red Bull. But at Hockenheim, Brazilian Massa insisted the news about the Australian is not significant.

“I’m sure not just Mark but a big number of drivers have been in touch, have called Ferrari,” he said.

Massa said earlier that if he keeps up his current improved form, he can expect a new deal. Finn Salo doesn’t think so.

“Yes, I think they need a better number two to support Alonso,” he told the MTV3 broadcaster. “It’s hard to say who it could be. I would like to think it’s a good opportunity for Heikki Kovalainen.

“Ferrari are saying Massa could stay next year, but I just don’t believe it.”

The Brazilian correspondent for O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, journalist Livio Orrichio, said he has heard from “well-informed” Italian sources that if Massa does stay, he faces a EUR 4 million pay cut, to about 6 million in 2013.

Massa, 31, indicated he is very keen to keep his current job, even if it means sometimes moving over for Alonso.

Reminded about Hockenheim 2010, when he was instructed on the radio that ‘Fernando is faster than you’, Massa said on Thursday: “I can’t say it was the most enjoyable weekend of my life.

“But I am a professional and if it happens again I will do anything to help my team and my teammate, the championship leader.”


Salo believes Bottas to replace Senna soon

Former F1 driver Mika Salo believes his Finnish countryman Valtteri Bottas is being groomed by Williams for a race seat — in 2012.

When the Toto Wolff-managed Bottas, 22, was announced as the British team’s 2012 reserve, Sir Frank Williams said he would practice on 15 Friday mornings and then “most likely” be replaced with a “more experienced driver” for the rest of those race weekends.

That more experienced driver would ultimately turn out to be Bruno Senna.

So with Brazilian Senna struggling so far in 2012, Salo has revealed he senses things could be about to change.

“Bottas is incredibly respected by the team,” Salo, now a commentator for the Finnish broadcaster MTV3, said.

“When I spoke with Frank Williams, he praised Valtteri to the skies, and said that he belongs in the races.

“I asked him when and he said it wouldn’t be long.

“Yes, I read between the lines that he means this season,” added Salo.

One major spanner in the works, however, is that Senna brings crucial sponsorship to Williams.

“It is a difficult situation for Williams, where both drivers bring money,” Salo acknowledged.

“But the good thing is that Frank Williams is not a businessman first, he is an old racing driver. He thinks about nothing else but how to make his team successful.

“Although Senna is a nice guy, he is not able to drive at the level that he needs to be at.”

When asked about Salo’s theory, Bottas commented: “I have no information.”