Finlands Kimi Raikkonen will race for Ferrari next season in a two-year deal that takes the 2007 world champion back to the glamour team he left in 2009 and creates the strongest pairing in Formula One. Ferrari said in a statement on Wednesday that the 33-year-old Iceman,currently driving for Lotus,will replace Brazilian Felipe Massa alongside Spains double world champion Fernando Alonso.
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, the statement said.
There were no quotes from the famously taciturn Finn,whose future team mate had made clear he would have been happy to continue with Massa. The Spaniard has a contract to the end of 2016.
Massa,championship runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in 2008,had already announced on social media that he would not be driving for the Italian team in 2014. Ferrari last had two world champions in their lineup in 1953,when Italians Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Farina were together. Raikkonen and Alonso should be a force to be reckoned with,although there could also be fireworks.
In contrast,other top teams have opted to pair a champion with a driver whose resume is less glittering. Red Bull have a new face in Australian Daniel Ricciardo,who has yet to stand on the podium,as team mate to triple champion Sebastian Vettel while 2009 winner Jenson Button has Sergio Perez alongside him at McLaren but the Mexican is not yet a race winner.
Germanys Nico Rosberg,who partners Hamilton at Mercedes,has been on the top step of the podium twice this season but only three times in his career.
Since the arrival in 1996 of Michael Schumacher,the seven times-world champion Raikkonen replaced at the end of 2006,Ferrari have preferred to have one clearly dominant driver in their lineup. That was not the case in 2008,when Massa almost won the title,but Alonso wasted no time in stamping his authority on the team when he replaced Raikkonen.
Massa started 2010 still recovering from near-fatal head injuries sustained at the previous years Hungarian Grand Prix and the Brazilian never regained his previous level of performance. Ferrari chairman Luca Di Montezemolo has said in the past,reacting to speculation that Vettel could partner Alonso,that he did not want two roosters in the same henhouse.
Ferrari decided,however,that Raikkonen who won this years Australian season-opener and recently ended a record 27 race scoring run was a better bet than Massa. Red Bull and Vettel have a firm grip on both of this years championships and Ferrari are already focusing much of their attention on next year,when the rules go through significant change and a new V6 power unit is introduced.
The team,winners of a record 16 constructors and 15 drivers championships but without a title since 2008,are not in the habit of re-signing their ex-drivers although Austrian Gerhard Berger had two separate three-year stints at Maranello in the 1980s and 1990s.
Raikkonen should have no problems fitting in at Maranello,with Pat Fry and James Allison his former technical directors at McLaren and Lotus (formerly Renault) now with Ferrari. Both men also worked with Alonso,who won his two titles with Renault,at those teams. The Finn won nine races for Ferrari between 2007 and 2009.
* Raikkonen pushed Ferraris Michael Schumacher all the way in 2003 but missed out on the championship by two points.
* The Finn was runner-up to Renaults Fernando Alonso in 2005,winning as many races (seven) as his Spanish rival. In September 2006,Ferrari announced he had been signed to replace seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.
* World champion in 2007,beating Hamilton and Alonso by a single point after winning three of the last four races in a stunning turnaround.
* Third in the 2008 championship and eclipsed by team mate Felipe Massa. At the end of 2009,after winning just one race,he was paid off for the remaining year of his contract and replaced by Alonso. The Finn then spent the next two years in world rallying and NASCAR.
n Returned to F1 with Lotus in 2012 and made an instant impression,ending the year third overall. Until this years Belgian Grand Prix,he had racked up a record 27 races in a row in the points. Raikkonen also won the 2013 season-opener in Australia.