SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Renault hit back at Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday while their Polish driver Robert Kubica said he was surprised and disappointed that the ex-world champion had ruled out a Formula One comeback as his team mate.
Raikkonen, who has been competing in the world rally championship this year after leaving Ferrari, had been linked to the British-based team after Renault said he had made an approach.
The Finn accused Renault in a Finnish newspaper interview on Wednesday of using his name “for their own marketing purposes”, said he had never seriously considered driving for them and was 100 percent certain not to next year.
Kubica, who has scored 114 of the team’s 133 points this season, told reporters at the Japanese Grand Prix that he was disappointed.
“I’m surprised because I thought personally that there was a chance,” he said.
“Apparently it wasn’t the case. What he says is completely different to what I think the overall picture was looking,” added the Pole.
“I’m a bit disappointed... if there was a chance I would be very pleased to race with him together in the team as he is a great driver. To have a world champion team mate would be really good and I think what Renault needs as well.”
Kubica’s current team mate is Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov, whose F1 future remains uncertain despite opening the door to a relatively untapped Russian market, with Renault demanding that he score consistent points.
The former champions, still racing under a suspended permanent ban after a race fixing scandal last year, are fifth overall in the constructors’ standings.
Renault team principal Eric Boullier rejected Raikkonen’s accusations.
“We have not piggy-backed on Kimi’s image at all, which is what he has been claiming in the press,” he said.
“We were contacted by his managers after (August’s Belgian Grand Prix at) Spa.
“They wanted to enter into discussions and at that time we said: ‘Please wait. Yes, we are very flattered that you have contacted us, but we need to finish the evaluation of Vitaly’s potential and from that point, when we have our own conclusion, we will get back to you.’ There was nothing else.”
Boullier said he had been “very clear and very fair with everybody.
“The idea was we are interested in talking, and if we believe Vitaly cannot do it we will call you back and we will discuss it. But why discuss it before? You can play with the media, you can play with pressure, but that is not the game here.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ossian Shine;To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org