Saturday 16 December 2017

F1: Raikkonen rejoins Ferrari on a two-year deal alongside Alonso

Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari days
Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari days

KIMI Raikkonen will race for Ferrari next season after agreeing a two-year deal that takes the 2007 Formula One world champion back to the glamour team he left in 2009.

Ferrari said in a statement that the 33-year-old Finnish 'Iceman', currently competing for Lotus, will replace Brazilian Felipe Massa alongside Spain's 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.

Massa, championship runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in 2008 before he suffered near-fatal head injuries in Hungary the following year, had already announced on social media that he would not be driving for the Italian team in 2014.

Raikkonen contested 52 grands prix for Ferrari between 2007 and 2009, winning on nine occasions. Six of those victories came in his first season as he beat McLaren duo Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to the world title by a single point.

However, he failed to replicate his 2007 performances in the two seasons that followed, with team-mate Massa enjoying the upper hand.

Raikkonen negotiated a release from his contract a year early at the end of 2009, with the Scuderia bringing in Alonso as his replacement. Two largely unsuccessful years in the World Rally Championship followed, and it was a reinvigorated Raikkonen that returned to F1 with Lotus in 2012.

Raikkonen finished in the points in 19 of his first 20 races back - including a win in Abu Dhabi - as he finished the season in third place in the drivers' standings.

He began his 2013 campaign with victory in Australia, and has finished in second place five times in 11 races since.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali welcomed the return of Raikkonen, who remains the only man other than Michael Schumacher to win the drivers' title for the team since 1979.

"I am delighted to welcome back to Kimi in the Scuderia with whom he was crowned world champion," said Domenicali.

Raikkonen saw off the challenge of both Massa and Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg to land one of the most coveted seats in F1 and is sure to prove a thorn in the side of Alonso, who has enjoyed undisputed number one status alongside Massa since joining the team.

Alonso famously left McLaren after just one season after becoming frustrated with having to share number-one driver status with then-rookie Hamilton, and how the Spaniard copes with Raikkonen's arrival will be closely scrutinised next year.

Raikkonen, who began his F1 career with Sauber in 2001 before spending five seasons at McLaren, had been linked with a move to world champions Red Bull in the wake of Mark Webber's decision to retire, but was overlooked in favour of Australia's Daniel Ricciardo.

Ferrari's decision to part with Massa ends the Brazilian's eight-year stint driving for the Prancing Horse, during which time he lost out on the 2008 world title by a single point and suffered a fractured skull in a freak accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Massa, who has made 184 starts for Ferrari - winning 11 races - has indicated he is keen to continue in F1 next season and has been touted as a possible replacement for Raikkonen at Lotus.

Domenicali paid tribute to Massa in a statement, saying: "I want to thank Felipe with all my heart, on behalf of our fans around the world, for the extraordinary work he has done for the team in all these years.

"Felipe has always behaved like a team man, we have experienced many dramatic and beautiful moments that have created a truly unique human and professional relationship.

"He will always be part of our family.

"Now we have to stay focused with all our strength on the last seven races of this championship. We know we can count on, as always, his contribution to achieve our goals."

Reuters

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport