- Commenting on ... Ferrari's 2014 line-up
Break from the normChris Medland September 11, 2013
Kimi Raikkonen's future has been an ongoing news story for a number of months since Mark Webber announced his decision to retire from Formula One, and the Ferrari link has been growing stronger in the past weeks until it was finally announced on Wednesday.
But go back to the start of the season and the prospect of Fernando Alonso and Raikkonen being team-mates at Ferrari would have been more than fantastical. If you had suggested such a scenario in 2010, you'd have received a contact card for a psychiatrist.
And yet it's now a reality, with Raikkonen agreeing a return to the team with which he won his only world championship back in 2007. It marks a big change for Ferrari - renowned for having a number one and number two driver - which is now set to have two world champions in its team for the first time since 1954 when it fielded Alberto Ascari and Nino Farina (and even then they never raced together; you have to go back a further year for that).
It was with some grace that Ferrari allowed Felipe Massa to announce his own departure from the team on Tuesday evening, after eight seasons of loyal service to the team which so nearly yielded a world championship. In recent years his role has been clear, playing second fiddle to Alonso in support of his ultimately unsuccessful title attempts.
The real unknown now is what happens to Alonso. He moved to Ferrari amid much fanfare in search of more world titles, having failed to add to his back-to-back successes at Renault. However, having been Ferrari's undisputed leader since 2010, suddenly there is a threat. Normally you would expect anyone coming in alongside Alonso to have a hard time getting the same backing from team, but there's a special affiliation with Raikkonen as he has achieved what Alonso hasn't: won the world championship in a Ferrari.
Strangely, it marks a clear about-turn for the team. Ferrari paid Raikkonen in full to not drive for it in 2010 in order to make room for Alonso as it staunchly stuck to its policy of not having - in Luca di Montezemolo's own words - "two roosters in the same hen house". They were words which were used to dismiss any notion of Sebastian Vettel joining Alonso, but Raikkonen will be similarly unwilling to accept number two status.
It appears the decision has been driven by a lack of constructors' championships returning to Maranello since 2008, with Massa's contributions to the constructors' totals alongside Alonso totalling 36% in 2010 and 31% in each of the last two years. So far in 2013 he's scored 32% of Ferrari's points; in other words, it's been three years since Massa scored more than half the amount of points Alonso did.
In essence, Ferrari has made the complete opposite choice to Red Bull. The current champions have opted for stability and in choosing Daniel Ricciardo rather than Raikkonen to replace Mark Webber it ensures Vettel remains the team leader - if unofficially - and therefore is not unsettled by a high-profile new team-mate. Far from attempting to appease Alonso in the same way, Ferrari has looked to secure the strongest driver pairing on the grid because its previous approach just wasn't working.
Raikkonen already knows the way Ferrari works, won a world title there and is seemingly happy to return with no qualms about facing Alonso. Whether a more experienced Alonso has learnt from his infamous year at McLaren remains to be seen. If he has then it could push him to an even higher level. If he hasn't, it could mark the beginning of the end of his Ferrari career.
Naturally we'll have to wait until 2014 to see if Ferrari has made the right decision, but either way it's going to make for spectacular viewing.
Chris Medland is assistant editor at ESPNF1