Kimi Raikkonen- There and back again

Daksh Panwar Posted online: Thursday, Sep 12, 2013 at 0000 hrs
In a sporting season of blockbuster transfers, the latest is Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen agreeing to drive for Ferrari in 2014 Formula One's equivalent of Gareth Bale going to Real Madrid.

Just as the Welshman has joined Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu as Madrid look to stop Barcelona and recreate their glory days, Raikkonen pairs with Fernando Alonso at Maranello as Ferrari hope to end Red Bull's domination and turn the clock back to the early 2000s.

In fact Ferrari have already turned back the clock, to 2007, as they have re-hired a driver they had parted ways with. In the first stint, Raikkonen, signed for a world record $51 million annual salary to replace Michael Schumacher, immediately filled those big shoes and won the team's first drivers' and constructors' titles in three years. However, the mercurial Finn's form dipped in 2008, and, after being outperformed by teammate Felipe Massa over the next one-and-a-half seasons, he lost his racing seat to Alonso at the end of 2009. He lost his motivation too and took two years off from FI before making a comeback with Lotus.

Now here Raikkonen is, set to replace Massa, who hasn't won a race since the Finn left in 2009, and joining a team who haven't won a title since he helped them to the constructors' trophy in 2008.

While Raikkonen's exit didn't cause Massa and Ferrari's miserable runs, he does have the potential to turn the team's fortunes around.

Always a fearsome driver, the Ice Man has looked hungrier than ever in his second avatar. To his blinding pace (only Schumacher and Alain Prost have clocked more fastest laps), he has added unbelievable consistency until his retirement at Spa Francorchamps last month, he had racked up points in 27 consecutive races, the longest ever scoring streak in F1.

On paper, therefore, pairing Raikkonen with Alonso appears a stunning move. However, it could also go horribly wrong. In signing Raikkonen, Ferrari have broken the tradition of having one clear No.1 driver and put, to borrow their president's expression, "two roosters in a hen house". Alonso, Ferrari's current No.1, is a brilliant driver but is said to have a massive ego, as was evident during his one-year stint with McLaren in 2007 when he just couldn't get along with Lewis Hamilton.

Likewise, Alonso-Raikkonen is also potentially a fire and ice combination two dominant forces who will fight together and against each other. After Mark Webber is gone from Red Bull next year, they will likely be the only team with a fierce drivers' rivalry. It may or may not work for Ferrari, but fans and F1 won't be complaining about it.

(Daksh is a special correspondent based in New Delhi.)