Kimi: Return of the Prodigal Son?

Team Scuderia 2014
Team Scuderia 2014

You know what they say – never go back. Still Kimi Raikkonen isn’t the kind of guy who would give a stuff what anyone else thinks. And so last Wednesday, Ferrari confirmed the worst kept secret in F1, they are bringing Raikkonen back to Maranello next season to partner Fernando Alonso.

Lets cast our minds back to Kimi’s Ferrari Years Part 1, 2007-2009. Two years after winning the drivers’ world title in 2007, Ferrari paid off Kimi to leave the team one year early to bring in their next big star, one Fernando Alonso. Its safe to say Kimi might have a point to prove next year.

Kimi at Ferrari, first time round
Kimi tasting glory at Ferrari first time round.

Luca di Montezemolo in one of his gnomic pronounciations earlier in the year said he didn’t want to have two roosters in the same hen house when musing upon the possibility of Vettel joining Alonso at Ferrari. While Kimi may have a couple less titles to his name, he is nonetheless a member of that inner sanctum of still-racing former F1 world champions. So di Montezemolo has had a volte-face of fairly epic proportions but hey there’s nothing like not winning a world title for 5 years (and counting…) to focus the mind.

Can you have too many roosters in the hen house?
Can you have too many roosters in a hen house?

The Alonso-Massa pairing has followed the tried and tested Ferrari model of supremely dominant number one driver (see Schumacher) with all-round nice guy compliant number two driver who generally hails from Brazil (see Barrichello). Possibly because the current Ferrari line-up has yielded a Big Fat Zero Championships, the suits at Maranello have decreed that its time to move to a different approach. They will be hoping that Raikkonen’s greater natural talent and competitiveness will bring out the best in both drivers. See Prost and Senna at McLaren, 1988.

Two roosters. 15 of 16 race wins. Not bad.
Two roosters. 15 out of 16 race wins. Not bad.

The one obvious flaw in their master-plan is that Vettel will (and I may be doing Daniel Ricciardo a great disservice) have a fairly lightweight and just-thankful-to-be-there team mate who I suspect will not provide the sternest of tests to Vettel on race day. So there is the huge risk that while Alonso and Kimi fight like tigers on track and split points between themselves, Vettel will in fact do what is known in the trade as ‘a Raikkonen’. Kimi won the title in 2007 partly because McLaren imploded after months of psychological warfare between their drivers (Alonso and then F1 rookie, Lewis Hamilton), partly because Kimi had the benefit of a helpful team-mate in Massa and partly because he is an audaciously talented driver (who actually won more races than Alonso and Hamilton in 2007).

Lewis and Fernando, before it all imploded at McLaren
Lewis and Fernando. A match made in hell.

One must spare a thought for Lotus who are losing their marquee signing in Raikkonen. They posted a tweet commenting on Kimi’s move to Ferrari saying “it hurts a little bit” with a picture of two mating rabbits. Next up for the Singapore GP, they have chosen #EveryoneHurts as the trending hashtag. I might have made that last bit up. Will this be the end of Mini Kimi? I was very fond of Mini Kimi and although I love the irreverant and interactive nature of the Lotus twitter feed, just occasionally (whisper it quietly) it came across that they ever so slightly hero-worshipped Kimi. Yep it probably really does hurt.

Will Mini Kimi get some new red overalls next season?
Will Mini Kimi get some new red overalls next season?

And what does Fernando Alonso make of it all? The last time he raced with a team-mate on an equal footing there was all-out civil war. As Ron Dennis (then team principal of McLaren) remarked at the time “we weren’t racing Kimi, we were basically racing Fernando”. Admittedly that was a long time ago but notably since then Alonso hasn’t won any more titles and aged 32 he knows that time is probably beginning to run out. It will be hard to relinquish out-and-out numero uno status at a team after so many years. Most tellingly it has been rumoured that Alonso is very unhappy about the decision. Throw into the mix the turbulent relations between Alonso and Ferrari this season after his open criticism of the car a few races back and it’s a pretty combustible mix of ingredients.

2014 is a make or break season for Alonso at Ferrari (IMHO)
2014 is a make or break season for Alonso at Ferrari

Michael Schumacher has predicted fireworks at Ferrari next season and he is uniquely placed to comment on Ferrari. Indeed we will be saturated with fire and ice references until our eyes bleed. It may well all end in tears but one thing is for sure, having Kimi back in the saddle of the prancing horse will not be dull.

In so many ways, Kimi was born to drive for Ferrari!
In so many ways, Kimi was born to drive for Ferrari


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