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McLaren say no talks with Raikkonen...yet

Lotus Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen attends a news conference at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod, near Budapest, July 25, 2013. REUT
Lotus Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen attends a news conference at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod, near Budapest, July 25, 2013. REUT

LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren considered signing Kimi Raikkonen last year but there have been no talks - so far - with their former driver since last season, team principal Martin Whitmarsh said on Tuesday.

Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One champion with Ferrari who is now with Lotus, is at the heart of paddock gossip with the driver market thrown into ferment by Australian Mark Webber's decision to leave champions Red Bull for sportscar racing.

Lotus say they are confident they can persuade him to stay once they have secured a new investment deal but the Finn has been linked to Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren in media speculation.

Asked in an interview with the official formula1.com website whether McLaren had ever considered getting Raikkonen back, Whitmarsh replied:

"Yes, we have. Kimi has always been great and I am a big fan of him. There is a lot of speculation out there at the moment so let's see what happens.

"Last year we had talks with him, but for various reasons it didn't happen," added the team boss. "This year we've had no talks - yet."

McLaren signed young Mexican Sergio Perez from Sauber last year as a replacement for 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton once the Briton had decided to move to Mercedes.

Britain's Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion for Brawn GP, is their other driver and has been with the Woking team since 2010.

Raikkonen drove for McLaren from 2002 to 2006, when Ron Dennis was team principal, and won nine races with them as well as finishing overall runner-up in 2003 and 2005.

Button and Perez are expected to stay at McLaren next year, despite a miserable season for the former champions who have yet to finish higher than fifth, although Button told reporters at last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix that he did not yet have a signed deal.

Asked whether having two world champions on board, as McLaren did last year with Hamilton and Button, might get more "positive media mileage", Whitmarsh agreed that might be the case.

"Yes, it might do," he replied. "We'll see. We are not talking to Kimi at the moment so let's see what happens in the driver market.

"I think one thing I have to say is that we haven't given our drivers the car we should have done this year. But they've been fantastic ambassadors and I think they deserve another go with us next year."

Button told reporters before Sunday's race at Spa that he was happy at McLaren and expected to see out his Formula One future with the team.

McLaren celebrate 50 years in Formula One at Monza next week and a contract renewal could come at the same time for the Englishman.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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