Kimi Raikkonen will sit out of Formula One next season after failing to secure a move back to McLaren, Finnish media reported Wednesday.
"The options in F1 were with McLaren next season or nothing," the Turun Sanomat daily quoted Raikkonen's manager Steve Robertson as saying late Tuesday. "Kimi and McLaren were unable to reach an agreement, so he will not drive at the F1 level _ at least not next year."
The Finn, who won the world championship with Ferrari in 2007, has left that team to make way for the arrival of Fernando Alonso. He received interest from several other teams but was intent on a return to his former team McLaren.
"Kimi is still bursting with enthusiasm to drive. A gap year here means nothing," Robertson said. "He is more interested in fighting for wins and the world championship. F1 will miss Kimi."
Raikkonen's decision to take a sabbatical will increase speculation of world champion Jenson Button moving to McLaren next season.
However, Mercedes _ having taken over the Brawn GP team that won the 2009 title _ still had hopes of convincing Button to remain with the team in 2010.
"Negotiations are continuing and the reports that he has already agreed to terms with McLaren are not helpful. I would be amazed if that were the case," Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn was quoted as saying in The Independent newspaper.
"His best future is with our team, where he has a good group around him, and there's a lot to be said for that. The logical thing would be for him to stay with us, but of course logic doesn't always prevail."
Nico Rosberg, who has left the Williams team, was also considered a contender for the McLaren seat alongside Lewis Hamilton, as was experienced German Nick Heidfeld, formerly of BMW Sauber. However, both had been more closely linked with Mercedes for next season.
Raikkonen had previously said he would consider switching to rally driving in 2010 if a deal to remain in F1 didn't happen.
Finnish broadcaster YLE TV said Wednesday that Raikkonen was negotiating with Citroen about driving for the team in next season's rally championships. It provided no further details.