Formula 1: Kimi Raikkonen replaces Felipe Massa at Ferrari
The fact that Felipe Massa was leaving Ferrari didn't really come as too much of a surprise to most Formula 1 fans. While some did wonder what would become of the Brazilian who has declared that he is still keen on staying in Formula 1, others immediately began to speculate about who would take his spot at Scuderia Ferrari.
The Iceman returns
The rumours had been floating around for quite awhile - they all indicated that Kimi Raikkonen would be making a return to the team he left at the end of the 2009 season. Some camps also believed that young Nico Hulkenberg would be next in line for a spot at the Scuderia, taking the same path as Massa himself had once taken, moving up from Sauber to Ferrari. But all rumours were put to rest at last on Wednesday when Ferrari officially announced that the Iceman would be back at the Italian squad, having signed a two-year contract with the team. This means Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will definitely partner each other at Ferrari next year. However, whether or not Alonso will stick around post next year is already up for debate.
2007: Kimi moves to Ferrari
Raikkonen after winning the title deciding race in 2007. Alonso had endured a tough season though
Ferrari has a habit of making all their announcements close to the Italian Grand Prix. Back in 2006, on the 10th of September, after Michael Schumacher won the Scuderia's home grand prix, he made an announcement that upset Schuey fans all over the world. Yes, Schumacher had decided to hang up his helmet and quit Formula 1. Soon after that, Ferrari announced that Schumacher's successor had been picked -- Kimi Raikkonen. Partnering Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2007 was Felipe Massa. And it must be said that the Iceman's career with Ferrari got off to a solid start. At the first race in Australia, Raikkonen took pole position, set the fastest lap of the race and even won his first grand prix for Ferrari. He was the first driver since Nigel Mansell to win on his Ferrari debut. It was a good season, too, for Kimi, when he managed 6 wins and 6 podiums, ensuring he beat Lewis Hamilton to the title in a down-to-the-wire race at Brazil. Some often forget that it was Felipe Massa who let Raikkonen past in order to ensure that the victory at Brazil would secure his team-mate the title.
2008-2009: Things unravel for Raikkonen
Post his world championship win, things began to change in the Raikkonen-Ferrari relationship. Kimi simply didn't do as well as his team-mate, and 2008 was the year that Massa transformed into one of Formula 1's 'almost' men. Not only had Massa taken four podiums and six wins, it was he who nearly won the championship title in an even more thrilling race at Sao Paolo. Almost. Though he might have lost the championship, it didn't change the fact that he'd consistently outclassed his team-mate. Things didn't change too much in 2009, either. Of course, Massa only competed in half the season, thanks to a crash at the 2009 Hungarian GP. But Raikkonen only managed one single win that season, the Belgian Grand Prix. His motivation was being questioned, and Ferrari appeared to have had enough. By the end of the season Kimi had been paid a pretty packet as a severance package and off he went in search of other motorsport goals. There was a Spaniard who was replacing him at Ferrari in 2010 -- someone who came with plenty of sponsorship from Santander. Fernando Alonso was Ferrari's new saviour.
2010-2012: Valiant Alonso wins over the tifosi
Farewell Felipe! While Alonso had won over the tifosi, it soon became clear that Massa was on his way out
When Fernando Alonso finally moved to Ferrari, it seemed like the team had found their Number 1 driver. That was something that Alonso was quite clear he wanted, nay needed, to be. Let's not forget that the reason he left McLaren at the end of the 2007 season was because he felt Lewis Hamilton, Ron Dennis's blue-eyed boy, was being given preferential treatment. Ferrari's performance in 2010 was quite simply overshadowed by Red Bull Racing. However, Alonso valiantly dragged the ailing Prancing Horse to the title race, flogged it and attempted to win the championship. He did that once again in 2012. Felipe was now the man whose skill and motivation was being questioned.
2013: Farewell Felipe
2008 when Massa very nearly won the championship
Why aren't we surprised that Ferrari has given Felipe the boot? Well, Formula 1 is an intensely competitive sport, and the scarlet squadron is an intensely competitive team. There, quite simply, is no room for dead weight. Felipe, as far back as Germany 2010, had been established as the team's number 2 driver. A fact that he was reminded of every time he had to make way for Alonso during a race. But, with Massa's contract with Ferrari ending in 2013, there wasn't any chance that he'd be retained beyond that period. The Scuderia has always aimed to have the best driver they could get their hands on, usually with an able number 2 to aid him. When Michael Schumacher stopped giving them the results they wanted, he was politely shown the door, as is what happened with Raikkonen back in 2009. Felipe's results have made the task just that much easier for them.
2014: Dream team or recipe for disaster?
Kimi Raikkonen back at Ferrari. Partnering Fernando Alonso. There are so many factors to look at here. From Alonso's perspective, although he has gone on record saying that he is okay with whatever decision Ferrari makes as to who his team-mate is, has spent the last four year building Ferrari into his team. He's learnt the language, endeared himself to the tifosi and also reaffirmed the fact that he is one fast driver. Ferrari's decision to put Raikkonen in the car alongside Alonso could change all of that. Unless he decimates Kimi every step of the way. On the other hand, Raikkonen is also the sort of driver who likes to drive fast and interact with the team as little as possible. Alonso being the team's favourite and Raikkonen just showing up to work and driving fast, could work for the both of them. Only time will tell, but 2014 looks set to be a cracker of a season.