Kimi Raikkonen’s much-anticipated Ferrari return is set to be announced this week after Felipe Massa confirmed on Twitter he will be leaving the team.
Massa spent eight years at Ferrari, winning 11 races, but his departure has been mooted throughout the 2013 season and was finally announced late on Tuesday:
From 2014 i will no longer be driving for Ferrari. I would like to thank the team for all the… http://t.co/ubhtiS79EE— Felipe1Massa (@Felipe1Massa) September 10, 2013
Raikkonen is the expected replacement for Massa at Ferrari, as reported by BBC Sport:
Kimi Raikkonen is on the verge of being confirmed as a Ferrari driver for next year's Formula 1 season: http://t.co/q6VeYYpu3E— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 9, 2013
Raikkonen’s future has been one of the main talking points of the season, with Red Bull and Ferrari both linked to the services of the Lotus driver. That speculation, though, is set to come to an end, according to ESPN F1:
Kimi Raikkonen is widely reported to have agreed terms with Ferrari on Monday and his announcement as Fernando Alonso's team-mate for 2014 is expected to be announced within a few days.
The likely announcement will signal the end of Felipe Massa's eight-year spell with Ferrari.
No official word has been offered by members of the Ferrari team, who continued to preach patience when quizzed over the matter on Sunday.
The Finn does have the option to stay with Lotus, with whom he is fourth in the 2013 championship standings, but ESPN F1 provides details on why he will cut ties with the organisation:
Raikkonen had an option to remain at Lotus but he was unable to get reassurances that it had the necessary technical and financial resources to enable it to challenge the leading teams next year.
It has also been reported there have been delays paying Raikkonen's salary this year.
Lotus believes it can meet Kimi Raikkonen's demands by the end of the week, but is it already too late? - http://t.co/Crr8i2Ys9B— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) September 9, 2013
The delay ahead of Raikkonen’s announcement is caused by a meeting between Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali and president Luca di Montezemolo, according to James Galloway and Pete Gill of Sky Sports.
Nico Hulkenberg remains an alternative candidate, should the Scuderia president have a change of heart.
However, Raikkonen is believed to have won the battle in a move that will change the entire dynamics of the Ferrari operation. Ted Kravitz of Sky Sports has more, via Galloway and Gill's report:
No longer will they be able to just send the number two out to test some new parts in unfavourable track conditions, or deliberately incur a gearbox penalty to move Fernando (Alonso) onto the clean side of the grid, as they did in Austin last year, or get the other driver to do the boring long-running on a tyre in practice that Fernando doesn't want to do, using up valuable mileage, because Kimi won't do that.
Raikkonen is the last man to win a world title for Ferrari, prior to his 2009 exit from the team. His status as a former world champion makes him Alonso’s equal, making it highly unlikely he will play second fiddle to the Spaniard.
Instead, a move for Raikkonen would represent an attempt by Ferrari to launch a two-pronged assault on Sebastian Vettel’s dominance of the sport, which looks set to extend to a fourth year after he built a 53-point lead at the Italian Grand Prix.