Sep 13 2013
The Italian team broke with tradition to hand Kimi Raikkone, the Finnish driver the wheels after having turfed him out in 2009 to bring in Alonso
Three options were on the table for the Maranello-based Italian team — retain Massa who has been in the scarlet colours for eight years, bring Raikkonen back, or sign up the promising Nico Hulkenberg from Sauber. In the end, Ferrari broke with tradition (of a sort) to hand the Finnish driver the wheels after having turfed him out in 2009 to bring in Alonso. This after Raikkonen had won them the word championship in 2007.
In the end, Raikkonen’s reliability — he has racked up points in every single race but one since returning to Formula One in 2012 for Lotus including one win at Bahrain late last year — swung the deal his way against his former teammate.
There is irony at work here. Back when Ferrari were keen to bring Alonso in, it was Massa who was preferred ahead of Raikkonen on the very same grounds. After his title triumph, the Finn seems to have lost consistency and his Brazilian co-driver consistently outscored him in 2008 and 2009 until the Hungarian Grand Prix when Massa suffered a fractured skull from a piece of debris flying off a car in front of him.
Ferrari, who had Raikkonen under contract till 2010, then paid him off for the year t bring the Spaniard in alongside the recovering Massa.
Naturally, the presence of two world champions in the same team in a sport where temperament often rules, has sparked off plenty of chatter. Not many teams — even Ferrari — have followed this path too readily and they have been at pains to reassure Alonso, himself a two-time champion for Renault, that Raikkonen’s return is in no way a snub to him or his driving ability.
Said team principal, Stefano Domenicali, “For anyone thinking the choice of Kimi is somehow an anti-Alonso choice, I can put their minds at rest. At Ferrari, everyone knows the interests of the team come first. Fernando is a key asset for this team and he will be for a long time.”
“This combination is the best one could have today in Formula 1”. It is incidentally also the first time since 1953 that Ferrari will have two world champion drivers in the grid — Alberto Ascari and Guiseppe Farina, lining up in the scarlet cars. It is, however, evident that this is a wake-up call for Alonso. He narrowly missed out on the world title in 2010 and last year, the feeling in the Ferrari garage seems to be that at times, the aggressive Spaniard has not tried hard enough.
Team boss, Domenicali, however, played down such suggestions. “Nothing will change in the way the team is run. Since the world began, our drivers have started on equal terms. It’s always been that way and always will.
“Then, during the course of the season, if the situation is such that one driver can help the other based on the points table, it’s logical and right that it should happen. It’s happened in the past and will happen in the future, as all drivers who have driven a Ferrari have demonstrated.”
As if to complete the circle of irony, it is fitting to recall that when Raikkonen won his world championship for Ferrari, he did so because Felipe Massa made way for him at the wire in the Brazilian Grand Prix, the extra points ensuring the Finn would land the title.