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24 Sept 2013

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Kimi Raikkonen is first and foremost an enigma and often seen by the media as an introvert, the Finn (at least to the media) prefers to be speak when spoken to and then at best keep his responses to a minimum.  His media savvy however is not what interests teams, it's his ability behind the wheel.  Since impressing as a rookie at the wheel of a Sauber he has gone on to build a reputation for being both fast and consistent.  Having spent time at both McLaren, Ferrari and most recently Lotus his career has seen him drive for some of the best teams.  He is what I would classify an old skool racer able to transcend categories having had success outside of F1.

Financial issues have dogged the relationship between himself and Lotus throughout his tenure, with the team reportedly paying the Finn at the end of each season rather than throughout it.  This with a lack of contract in place for 2014 it became clear that the Finn would become hot property.  Openly courted by Red Bull Racing to replace the outgoing Mark Webber it seemed for a short time that the driver would see out the rest of his career with the Milton Keynes based squad.  At the same time though many of us talked about the potential for him to return to Ferrari and partner Fernando Alonso, a mouth watering partnership that has 3 driver's championships between it. 

With Kimi choosing Ferrari the question remains, was it a gamble for Ferrari to re-hire a driver that they had previously bought out of their contract?

There are two ways we can look at the prospect of this driver lineup but from Ferrari's perspective their reasoning is sound.  Rather than chase the drivers Championship with a defacto number one driver they will now chase it with two.  If we were to combine Alonso & Raikkonen's points for this season, Ferrari would still be in the hunt for the Constructors title on 336 points, only 41 points behind Red Bull (Upto and including Singapore).  Whereas we currently find Alonso and Massa's tally much shorter (274 points) leaving the team trailing the Bull's by 103 points.  Of course it's like comparing Apples and Oranges as Kimi may not have collated as many points as he has at Lotus but it just goes to show the potential of pairing these 2 great drivers.

Kimi's previous stint at Ferrari saw him take the drivers Championship so the team know only too well he has the ability.  As mentioned above Ferrari must have also considered the factor that they want to regain the Constructor's Championship and the most efficient way to do this is to not only have a great car but great drivers too.  Their focus over the last few years seems to have been heavily skewed in Fernando's favour and although Felipe Massa has done a decent job since their partnership began in 2010 it hasn't been enough to challenge Red Bull Racing.  The team want a driver that is consistent and scoring good points but also pushing their other driver, I fear Felipe was no longer doing the latter.  Fernando has spoken out over the Singapore GP weekend insisting he was kept in the loop by Ferrari in regard to the change of driver.  He fully understands the implications of having another world champion alongside him and will more than likely relishes the challenge.

Many ex drivers, corners of the media and fans have talked about the driver pairing as a mistake and will lead to an explosive battle between the two, but age and experience is another weapon in terms of racing each other on the track. After all the biggest faux pas in racing is to encumber your team mate.  Taking a younger driver like the touted move for Nico Hulkenberg could have led to the team needing to manage their drivers more, this task therefore should be lessened.  However lest we forget former team mates that let their rivalry overtake the needs of the team include Prost/Senna and Alonso/Hamilton amongst others so it's not beyond the realms of possibility it could happen once more at Ferrari.

Kimi is often criticized because he appears to lack motivation but one thing is for sure, as soon as he puts the helmet on he is 100% focused.  The criticism stems from his lack of off track testing, whilst other drivers spend hours in the simulator Kimi prefers not to.  He doesn't partake in track walks before the GP weekend either and cites both as an unnecessary waste of his time, saying he knows the track and the best way to find the differences is behind the wheel.  His feedback whilst in the car is second to none and this is probably one of the largest factors behind Ferrari re-aligning themselves with him.  With the huge rule changes coming in 2014 having experienced drivers like Kimi and Fernando able to give feedback and develop the car will be crucial.

At nearly 2 years older than the man in the opposite side of the garage it must be said that Kimi is in the twilight of his career and so the 2 year contract he has signed with Ferrari will probably be his last for a competitive F1 team.  This will therefore make him motivated to best both his team mate and the rest of the field should he be given a competitive car.  The other perhaps coincidental aspect of the signing of Kimi for 2 years is that Sebastian Vettel will also be coming to the end of his Red Bull contract should Ferrari want to sign the German.

Alonso's future with the team has also been questioned over the last few months with rumours as absurd as him taking a years sabbatical top of my list.  Of course during the Singapore GP weekend we have had 'no comments' from the likes of Martin Whitmarsh as the media try to ignite rumours of a swoop by McLaren.  This only fuels the fire of speculation and so Alonso swiftly denied any intent to leave the team he now feels is his own and molded around him.

Ferrari remain the team that all drivers aspire to race for and I see no reason for Fernando to deviate from his desire to stay there.  He has made rousing speeches of late which have perhaps annoyed certain corners within the team/fan base but you cannot fault his commitment to the cause.  Leaving Ferrari would mean finding a seat in another top team and at his age settling in and making the team his own once more may be more of a task than he is willing to undertake.

2014 brings with it a plethora of technical changes so the psychological fight between the two champions that will drive for Ferrari may have to wait, it won't however stop the media writing about a battle between the two whether it exists of not.

But what are your thoughts? Has Kimi made a mistake moving back to Ferrari when he was so ceremonially dispatched of in 2009? Have Ferrari made a shrewd move to lure Kimi back in order to win the Constructor's title? Will Fernando stay at Ferrari or do you think he feels threatened enough to make a move away? 

1 comment:

  1. Could the ALO/RAI relationship be doomed to explode? -- Quite possibly, but that's likely to be on the fiery Spaniard's end; the Iceman won't crack. The team and the Tifosi love Alonso, so he will feel supported. It's not like the ALO/HAM relationship at McLaren, where Alonso felt the British team favored the young, quick, British driver.

    Is Ferrari's tactic of hiring RAI a short term gain? -- Possibly, but with these new regulations in place for the next few years, wouldn't a team want the maximum maturity and feedback in order to develop the car early? It may pay dividends in the years to come.

    Will this be fun to watch? -- Yes. Definitely.


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