Kimi Raikkonen has said that there is no guarantee his switch to the World Rally Championship will be a temporary one, after admitting that it is not certain he will come back to Formula 1.
The Finn has signed to do a near full campaign for the Red Bull-backed Citroen Junior team in 2010 after failing to find a seat suitable for him in F1 next year.
And although many have viewed the 2007 world champion's move across to rallying as an F1 sabbatical, Raikkonen himself says there is a chance his WRC switch could actually be permanent.
In an exclusive interview with this week's AUTOSPORT, where he speaks for the first time about his move to rallying, Raikkonen said his long-term future was totally open.
"I don't have any contract with F1 or anything else, so I have no idea what will happen," he said. "I have both options, to stay in rallying or try to come back to F1. I want to see how it goes, and then decide. I'm not in a hurry to decide.
"If it goes well, then I could keep doing it. There are many different scenarios. Right now it's just for this year, both with Red Bull and with Citroen."
Raikkonen also reveals that he suspects there was more to Ferrari's decision to get him out of his contract than simply his performance with the team.
"You have to ask them, I don't know!" he says. "You need to ask the people who make those decisions. I'm not interested in the end why or when. I'm pretty sure I know the answer, and it's nothing to do with racing or what I've done there.
"I think when there is enough money involved, you can always change anything! I think it's a lot to do with Santander coming in. Probably they made some deal. I don't know..."
Raikkonen admitted that he came close to signing for McLaren, and held talks with Brawn, but in the end could not secure himself the conditions that he wanted.
"I could have signed with them [McLaren] if I'd wanted to do, but in the end it wasn't 100 per cent what I wanted. It was not really so much about money; it was all the other things. It's not that I couldn't have gone there but, like I said, I have no reason to do something with a contract that I'm not happy with."
Raikkonen insisted, however, that money was not the key factor in preventing a deal happening - even though the terms of his release from Ferrari meant he would get less money if he secured another drive in F1.
"Yeah, for sure there is something that if I raced with another team, I get a bit less. And there was no point to get paid less if I race with somebody. It was a complicated situation, but in the end that wasn't the issue, the money side, although everybody thinks so. It wasn't what I wanted."
Speaking about the Brawn situation, Raikkonen said: "Probably I could have gone there. I didn't want to start waiting for a long time. For sure we could have got a contract in the end, but when the McLaren thing didn't happen I already had the talks with Red Bull, so I just wanted to go there and see what happens in rallying. Maybe I'll come back [to F1] next year or the year after. Or maybe not..."
*The full interview with Raikkonen, where he talks about the challenges facing a rally driver and his time with Ferrari, is in this week's Christmas edition of AUTOSPORT, on sale in newsagents now.