Raikkonen requires licence to thrill

FINNISH wonder kid Kimi Raikkonen seems certain to make his Grand Prix debut for Peter Sauber's (pictured) team in Melbourne next March - if he can get his hands on a Formula 1 super-licence

Raikkonen requires licence to thrill

Team boss Peter Sauber has said a super-licence, the driver's ticket to F1 racing, is all that stands between the 21-year-old Finn and a race deal with his Swiss-based outfit, despite the fact he's only ever started 23 motor races.

"We would like Kimi Raikkonen to drive our second car next to Nick Heidfeld," said Sauber. "When we get the confirmation of the super-licence by the FIA, the public and media will be informed accordingly."

Raikkonen has tested twice for Sauber, but will have to fulfil the FIA's criteria of completing 300km of testing at racing speeds over two days. He is scheduled to test for the team at Jerez from December 5-7 and Barcelona from December 18-20, giving him ample opportunity to prove his ability.

Sauber has already gone on record as a big fan of the reigning British Formula Renault champion.

"There are several aspects why we very strongly believe that Raikkonen is the right man for us," he added. "First of all he has a very professional approach towards his work and an astonishing maturity considering his age. Even more impressive is his natural speed. He seems to crank out fast lap times effortlessly. In comparison with other drivers, we never got the impression that he reached his limits. We still have to find out how fast he can go!"

Despite rumours that Raikkonen is having trouble obtaining a super-licence, his manager Steve Robertson is confident this is a mere formality.

"I haven't heard any concerns about it," he said. "No one said anything when Jarno Trulli jumped up to F1, and his German F3 car had almost the same power as a contemporary Formula Renault."

Most Grand Prix graduates qualify for super-licences by winning major international championships, such as Heidfeld did by winning the FIA F3000 title, but that trend has been bucked recently by the likes of Marc Gene, Gaston Mazzacane and Jenson Button. The latter, managed by Robertson's father David, leapt into the BMW Williams team despite only finishing third in the British F3 Championship in 1999, but satisfied the super-licence criteria in testing.

Raikkonen's deal would send a shockwave through the F1 driver market. Mika Hakkinen's manager, former World Champion Keke Rosberg, said: "The world will change if Raikkonen gets a super-licence. It will turn the whole drivers' market on its head."

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