The Inside Line Podcast: Why Kimi Raikkonen will never race the Indy 500

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Kimi Raikkonen.

As Motorsport’s most-awaited weekend nears, Mithila and Kunal had to make a tough choice while deciding what to speak about first – the Monaco Grand Prix or the Indianapolis 500? We can’t possibly wonder how Fernando Alonso made up his mind! And damn the Indy 500 traditions for not being Raikkonen-friendly.

In this week’s episode, we discuss the long and short of wheelbases, Jenson Button’s return to Formula 1, Carlos Sainz Jr.’s most-certain departure from Toro Rosso for 2018 (and how he should NEVER take career advice from a certain Fernando), Pastor Maldonado’s misconception, Hamilton’s love for Indian food and how we hope and pray for a combined racing weekend of MotoGP and Formula 1 action at the same venue. Now, wouldn’t that be most epic?

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Five key talking points ahead of Monaco Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has arrived in Monaco just six points behind championship rival Sebastian Vettel following his victory at last Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Here, we look at the key talking points as the southern French port plays host to the most famous race on the Formula One calendar.

BUTTON IS BACK

Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, will take centre stage in Monte Carlo this weekend as he prepares for his Formula One comeback. The 37-year-old, who called time on his career in Abu Dhabi last November, will make a one-off appearance for McLaren with Fernando Alonso in America competing at the Indianapolis 500. Button, yet to test this year’s car, will be given his first taste of action in practice on Thursday. The low-powered nature of the Monte Carlo street circuit means there will not be as much emphasis on McLaren’s lacklustre Honda engine and, as such, could play into Button’s hands. So, could the veteran Englishman spring a fairytale result on Sunday?

Jenson Button.

Jenson Button.

HAMILTON TO MATCH SENNA

Hamilton is just six points adrift of Vettel following his win in Spain to leave the championship rivals on two victories apiece this season. And the Briton is now just one pole position shy of equalling the number achieved by his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, too. Senna is widely considered as arguably the greatest one-lap specialist of all-time, and where better than Monaco for Hamilton to match his pole tally? Senna won more races in Monte Carlo (six) than any other driver – including five consecutive victories between 1989 and 1993 – while a statue will be unveiled at the Fairmont Hotel on Wednesday to celebrate 30 years since his first win here back in 1987.

Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton.

MERCEDES READY TO “BRING DOWN THE GARAGE ROOF”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed that his team’s battle with Ferrari has helped him rediscover his love for the sport. Wolff’s Mercedes team are this season bidding for a fourth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship following an unprecedented run of success. But this marks the first campaign in which another team has been on a level playing field. “I love the intense competition,” said Wolff. “This competition means that you won’t be winning easily, but that you’ll have a fierce fight on your hands. The feeling is even greater when you manage to come out on top, as we did in Spain. If we get the job done in Monaco, I’m pretty sure we’ll bring down the garage roof.”

Mercedes.

Mercedes.

ALL EYES ON ALONSO

The eyes of the motor racing world will turn to Alonso on Sunday evening as he takes to the famous brickyard for the 101st running of the Indy 500. Around 300,000 spectators are expected to watch the two-time F1 world champion bid to complete the second phase of the so-called ‘Triple Crown’ – that of winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 hours race. Unsurprisingly, Alonso has impressed during his time in America and will start from fifth on the grid. The F1 paddock will descend on his McLaren team’s motorhome in Monaco for a special screening of the race which gets under way at 5pm BST.

Fernando Alonso.

Fernando Alonso.

HAMILTON LEADS HAYDEN TRIBUTES

Motorsport bid a tragic farewell to former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden who died on Monday. The American, nicknamed the Kentucky Kid, collided with a car while cycling in Italy last week and succumbed to his injuries. Hamilton posted a message to his Instagram followers as Britain’s triple world champion led the tributes. “Dear Nicky, you will be missed,” he wrote. “May God hold you high, you are forever in our hearts. My thoughts and prayers to you and your loved ones.”

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Jenson Button relishing return to F1 at Monaco Grand Prix

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Jenson Button believes he is ready for his return to Formula One as he prepares for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The 2009 world champion, who last competed in November 2016, will replace Fernando Alonso at McLaren for Sunday’s race, with the Spaniard absent due to his involvement in the Indianapolis 500.

Button admits it is strange to be driving again but he is eagerly anticipating being out on the street circuit in the principality.

The 37-year-old said: “It feels slightly surreal to be back in the cockpit.”

“When the call came there was no hesitation – it’s a totally unique situation and a great opportunity.”

“Although I haven’t turned a wheel on track yet in the MCL32, I feel well prepared.”

“I’m looking forward to working with the team again and, as I’ll be on the other side of the garage this time around, I’ll do my best to look after the car for Fernando.”

This weekend’s race will be Button’s 17th Monaco Grand Prix.

He took the chequered flag during his 2009 championship-winning season and also achieved podium finishes in 2004 and 2011.

“I’m looking forward to stepping back behind the wheel for one of the most crazy, unpredictable and exciting races of the year,” he added.

“Monaco is truly unique as a track and requires a lot of work to fine-tune the car and optimise the set-up for the narrow layout. It’s always a challenge, a huge challenge, for any driver – but a really exciting challenge, and has always been up there in my favourite races of the year.”

“I know the track well, of course, and I’ve done quite a bit of work in the McLaren simulator already. I’m still fit, and I’ve been training probably more than ever.”

Button relinquished his racing duties this season but remains under contract with McLaren until 2018.

McLaren-Honda racing director Eric Boullier praised Button for being prepared to step in for Alonso.

“For the first time in recent history, we’ll be supporting two teams on opposite sides of the world, with Fernando taking part in his first-ever Indy 500 with McLaren Honda Andretti,” Boullier said.

“In the famous Monaco paddock, we welcome the return of Jenson, who we are all looking forward to working with again, and who is already doing a sterling job deputising for Fernando, having already completed stints in our simulator in preparation.”

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