December 5 2013 Latest news:
Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Hethel-backed Lotus are looking for a new driver after Ferrari confirmed Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Maranello from next season.
The 33-year-old Finn will replace Felipe Massa, who revealed the end of his eight-year Ferrari stint on Tuesday night, after agreeing a deal to race alongside Fernando Alonso for the next two seasons.
Raikkonen won the world title with Ferrari in 2007 but left the team just two years later – something that cost the Maranello team a hefty pay-off but allowed them in turn to recruit Alonso, while Raikkonen took on the rally circuit.
Now the Finn will find Alonso on the opposite side of the same garage from 2014, in a mouthwatering driver line-up that runs against Ferrari’s long-standing belief of having a defined number two driver to back up their primary world title challenger.
While Raikkonen saw off the challenge of Massa and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg to land one of the grid’s most coveted seats, the remaining pair now seem destined to fight it out for the Finn’s vacated drive at Enstone – with Hulkenberg favourite.
Raikkonen has clocked 13 podiums including two wins from his 32 grands prix to date with Lotus. And of his 52 races contested for Ferrari between 2007 and 2009, he won nine. Six of those came in his first season as he beat McLaren’s warring duo of Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to the world title by one point.
He failed to replicate his 2007 performances in the two seasons that followed, with team-mate Massa enjoying the upper hand.
Two largely unsuccessful years in the World Rally Championship followed, before a reinvigorated Raikkonen returned to F1 with Lotus in 2012.
Raikkonen remains the only man other than Michael Schumacher to win the drivers’ title for Ferrari since 1979.
“I am delighted to welcome back to Kimi in the Scuderia with whom he was crowned world champion,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali.
The most fascinating aspect of the news from now may be the reaction of Alonso, who has enjoyed undisputed number one status alongside Massa since joining the team.
Alonso’s rivalry with Hamilton at McLaren lasted just one acrimonious season as the pair failed to deal with shared team leadership at Woking, the Spaniard eventually jumping ship for Maranello.