Yesterday it was confirmed that for 2014 Kimi Raikkonen would be leaving Lotus to rejoin Ferrari, the team with whom he won the 2007 world championship. Here, Hugh Podmore analyses the news from the main players’ perspective.
For Kimi, this move is probably a step up in most respects. His (reportedly improved) salary will be guaranteed as it could not be at Lotus; he knows the team well; Ferrari are redoubling their efforts to become championship contenders again. Only in this last might he have cause for concern in 2014 – Maranello does not have an exemplary record when it comes to reacting to major rule changes – but the presence of James Allison and the massive resources the technical team have at their disposal can go some way to reassuring the Finn of some level of competitiveness. In the same way, there was no proof positive that Lotus would be able to reproduce their form of the last couple of seasons. Ferrari are an altogether sunnier proposition for the Iceman, and having failed to reach an agreement with Red Bull, his best option.
For Ferrari, the capture of Raikkonen is something of a coup. Their last world champion, a man well-liked by the tifosi and a consummate exponent of his craft, Raikkonen is intelligent, experienced and fast. Reportedly, his icy demeanour and Scandinavian stoicism sometimes defeat the Italian mechanics’ understanding – and Stefano Domenicali has practically admitted as much – but when things are working smoothly, that won’t be an issue. Di Montezemolo cannot be disappointed with his manoeuvres now they have paid off. Despite saying earlier this year that he did not want two roosters in the same henhouse, he now has two of the top four best drivers in the world in his cars. There’s no doubt that Raikkonen is a better driver than he was when he left. It could – and should – be a recipe for wins.
What about for Fernando? Here the fairytale marriage hits the rocks. Alonso has effectively had Ferrari as his private domain for three years, so cuddly was the threat from Massa. It has been a team that, albeit ineffectually, has been solely dedicated to helping Alonso win races. And the darker recesses of Fernando’s mind will now be chirping that if the team could not bring championships when their focus was just on him, what hope does he have with another rooster there? Then Alonso’s conscience will remind him of 2007 at McLaren, the last time he was an equal number one. If he’s given to paranoia, Alonso might also see the signing of Raikkonen as Ferrari’s revenge for the public disloyalty of saying he wanted another car as a birthday present (an utterance which would not have escaped the attention of the upper echelons of the marque). Worse, he might even think they think he’s not capable of leading the team, and after all he’s done for them…Fernando could be plumbing the psychological depths at the moment.
The reality is that Raikkonen is too good not to trouble Alonso, and they will end up on the same piece of tarmac next season. Whether that is at the front or the back, it will be great to watch. Hurry up, 2014.