Kimi contemplates getting back on the horse after a year's hiatus

What's the matter, four world champions on the same grid not enough for you? Well next year could bring even more, if the latest reports pan out.

In addition to world champions Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher duking it out on circuits around the world this season – never mind the prospects for current championship front-runner Mark Webber – reports are now intensifying that 2007 champ Kimi Raikkonen could be back in F1 as soon as next season.

The Finnish driver known as Tom Kazansky "Ice Man" bolted from single-seaters at the end of last season when Ferrari paid him big bucks to vacate his seat for Alonso, shocking the world of motorsports with an impromptu switch to the World Rally Championship instead of driving for an inferior F1 team. Kimi said he'd only return to grand prix racing if and when he could get behind the wheel of a competitive car, preferring to play in the dirt and gravel if not. But based on its performance at this year's Belgian Grand Prix (scoring a podium and a points finish), Raikkonen now seems convinced that Renault could provide him with such a car, and has approached the team in pursuit of a seat alongside Robert Kubica for next season.

So what's holding up the deal? Apparently Renault is waiting to see if its current #2 driver Vitaly Petrov can improve his form enough to retain his seat. That's right: they'd rather have a rookie than a proven world champion. Petrov's home country of Russia, you see, is a vital market for Renault, and the commercial benefits and potential he brings to the team could be worth more to the French automaker than winning a world championship. Sigh.

[Source: Autosport | Image: Juha Sorri/AFP/Getty]