Have Ferrari lost faith in Raikkonen?

kimi-raikkonen“Massa would be prepared to go down with the ship, with a prancing horse-shaped anchor attached to his torso, Raikkonen would take the sole lifeboat.”

Ferrari’s response to Felipe Massa’s accident is an indication that the Scuderia has begun to lose faith in Kimi Raikkonen, writes Forumula1.com’s Ewan Marshall.

Michael Schumacher’s comeback, or rather the lack of it, has focused much attention on Ferrari in the last few weeks, and asked many questions about the future of the Scuderia, and most notably of Kimi Raikkonen.

Let it be known that Felipe Massa’s accident, despite adding perspective to Ferrari’s current situation, was not the catalyst behind the speculation about Raikkonen’s future. There has long been critisism of the Finn’s work ethic in relation to the lucrative salary he receives from the coffers at Maranello – rumoured to be in the region of $51 million per year.

However the days which followed Massa’s crash did speak volumes about how Ferrari view their current star driver, and about their future. Why did the Italian team have to turn to their former hero, Michael Schumacher, for guidance in a time of need?

Why was it that Schumacher was the man who was entrusted with fulfilling the hopes and dreams of Ferrari fans around the world? Even if he is a seven-time world champion, he is still an ageing driver. Where was the championing of Kimi Raikkonen by Luca di Montezemolo and the other senior members of the team?

Has Ferrari truly lost faith in Raikkonen? It would appear so.

In the aftermath of Schumacher’s decision to call off his return to the sport, Di Montezemolo revealed that the team’s future looks safe in the hands of a “seasoned champion.” Presumably this can only be Fernando Alonso, who Italian sources predict will be in a Ferrari next season, along with his sponsor, Spanish bank Santander.

Rumours of the Spaniard’s move to Ferrari are also not new. Stories that he was on the move to Maranello even harp back to before his disastrous move to Mclaren in 2007. For so long now Ferrari have denied Alonso’s move with the use of a number of methods, most notably in confirming an extension to Raikkonen’s contract for the 2010 season. But now, in their time of need, Maranello no longer appears to want to fight these rumours, instead it wants to welcome Alonso with open arms.

Therefore with Massa’s return to full fitness looking ever more likely, where does this leave Kimi Raikkonen in the grand scale of things for 2010?

If the latest press reports are to believed, then this will certainly not be at Ferrari. The team appears to be doing everything in its power pay-off the Finn a year before his contract expires. Will this redundancy package also include a number of outings for the Finn in the World Rally Championship?

One can only presume that Ferrari now feel that they signed the wrong man back in 2006. Maybe they even feel short changed? Raikkonen no longer appears to be the great driver who would lead the team into a new era of championship victories. Although he fulfilled his obligations by bringing glory to the Scuderia in 2007, Raikkonen failed to carry this momentum into 2008, where a mixture of misfortune and poor displays dogged his title bid.

Whatever the reasons behind his 2008 slump, Raikkonen did not endear himself to his team members or the expectant Tifosi. To the outside world it seems that while Massa captured the hearts of the Italian team with his gutsy fighting attitude last season, Kimi continued to frustrate, despite being paid a far higher wage than the Brazilian. Massa has also been shown to care about the team during its troubled 2009 season, and proved to be as much of a team player as his former teammate, Michael Schumacher, was.

To many it appears that Ferrari took a gamble when they signed Raikkonen for the 2007 season. Was it merely a quick fix? Despite assurances, it was always going to be hard for the Finn to become more of a team player, even in a more relaxed environment.

While Massa would be prepared to go down with the ship, with a prancing horse-shaped anchor attached to his torso, Raikkonen would take the sole lifeboat and leave his fellow sailors stranded.

All in all, Raikkonen cannot be fully blamed for his attitude towards Formula One. He was never going to live up to the reputation of Schumacher, nor did he care about the German’s team spirit. At Ferrari, he merely wanted to drive fast cars, win races and enjoy the lifestyle.

However such an attitude could never be accepted by a team with such high demands. Ferrari will not be happy with Raikkonen. Why did it take the sniff of victory, last time out in Hungary, before we saw a glimpse of his raw talent?

Question marks remain over whether the Finn will take Ferrari’s offer and walk away from the Scuderia, or continue to see out his contract. If he chooses the first option, would he so easily find a seat?

If he chooses the latter then surely he would become nothing more than a shadow of his former self, isolated in a team that clearly does not require his services?

Ferrari’s blatant disappointment, in their reaction to the news that Schumacher will not make a return in one of their Scarlet cars would indicate that now wish that they never forced the German to retire in the first place.