The Formula One saga of the season is finally over. Kimi Raikkonen’s highly anticipated switch to Ferrari is official for the 2014 campaign, following a formal team statement on Wednesday.
Under the headline "Welcome Back Kimi!" Ferrari confirmed the news via its official website:
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.
Raikkonen's current team, Lotus F1, reacted by posting a telling image on its official Twitter account.
The brief Ferrari statement clarifies the terms of Raikkonen's stay, revealing he will get at least two seasons with the team, despite an earlier report from Andrew Benson of BBC Sport, who claimed he would sign a one-year deal with an option to stay for the 2015 season.
The Finn, who leaves behind a Lotus outfit that struggled to provide assurances on a technical and financial level, according ESPNF1, replaces the outgoing Felipe Massa who announced his Ferrari exit on Tuesday:
Official news of Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari sees the Scuderia bring back its last world champion, with the Finn taking the 2007 title in a dramatic final race in Brazil.
It also represents a swallowing of pride by Ferrari bosses, who released Raikkonen in 2009—keeping Massa—in order to bring Fernando Alonso to the team.
Back then Massa was outscoring Raikkonen, but this year the Brazilian trails the Finn by 55 points in the championship standings with what is widely perceived to be the better car.
Raikkonen had been linked to other teams throughout the season, notably Red Bull, where Sebastian Vettel even advocated the 33-year-old's arrival.
However, Vettel now faces the prospect of taking on two world-class rivals—both operating under the Ferrari banner next season—after Raikkonen joined forces with Alonso.
The move represents a significant policy shift for Ferrari, which could yet cause discontent in the Alonso camp. For years the Spaniard has been the team's No. 1 driver, but that situation will surely now change.
Massa has been happy to play second fiddle to Alonso, incurring penalties on his behalf, and Sky Sports' Ted Kravitz, via a report from James Galloway and Pete Gill, underlines the shift that will now take place.
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 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.
When Raikkonen left Ferrari he was considered a driver on the slide after finishes of first, third and sixth in consecutive seasons. But with Alonso as a teammate and Ferrari supplying the car, 2014 is already expected to be one of the most gripping campaigns of recent F1 history.
Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg is the current favourite to fill the vacancy left by Raikkonen at Lotus.