Following Felipe Massa’s announcement last night that he would be leaving the team at the end of the season, the path appeared to have been paved for Raikkonen to return. However, the team has waited until today to make the news official.
“Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has reached an agreement with Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn will join Fernando Alonso in the driver line-up for the next two racing seasons,” a statement from Maranello read.
Raikkonen last drove for the team in 2009, having joined two years earlier and instantly finding his feet en route to the 2007 drivers’ championship. After his title defence wilted mid-way through 2008, he struggled to find any kind of form in 2009, winning just one race before parting company with Ferrari at the end of the season.
The Finn then enjoyed a two-year sabbatical taking part in many rally events, but he was lured back to the sport by Lotus, partnering Romain Grosjean. It appeared that all was well at the team after a strong comeback season and a good start to 2013, but as the weeks and months have passed, it has become clearer and clearer that the financial situation at Lotus is not stable, with Raikkonen admitting at Spa that things “aren’t as they should be.”
Following Mark Webber’s decision to retire at the end of the season, Red Bull had approached Raikkonen with a view of partnering Sebastian Vettel. However, talks broke down with Raikkonen conceding at Spa that a deal looked unlikely. Therefore, the only viable option appeared to be a move to Ferrari despite the two parties splitting on uneasy terms back in 2009.
Ferrari will now have one of the strongest driver pairings on the grid, with Alonso and Raikkonen sharing three world titles between them. This is a marked break in Ferrari’s policy of having a number one and a number two driver (as Massa has learned), and it will be intriguing how this marriage of convenience develops for both Raikkonen and the team.
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic.