Raikkonen's Crucial Moment

Paige Michael-ShetleyCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2009

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari drives during the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at the Hungaroring on July 26, 2009 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

The announcement that Michael Schumacher cancelled his temporary comeback to Formula One to replace injured Felipe Massa revealed some insight into Kimi Raikkonen's situation with the team. 

Discussing Schumacher's aborted return, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo stated:

"I am very unhappy that a problem means that Michael cannot return to racing. In the past few days, I could appreciate his great efforts and extraordinary motivation which had spread through the team and fans around the world. No doubt his return would have been good for Formula 1 and I am sure it would have seen him fighting for wins again."

It's quite telling that Montezemolo emphasized Schumacher's "great efforts" and "extraordinary motivation which had spread through the team and fans around the world" in reference to the disappointment that Schumacher won't be back in the car.

There are plenty of other things Montezemolo could have said in a public statement about Schumacher in the context of his failed attempt at a return, such as the fact that he's a seven-time world champion and arguably the greatest grand prix driver ever. 

Montezemolo is a savvy man who knows the meaning that his public statements convey. His words are a very clear statement to the underachieving, and seemingly disinterested, Raikkonen. 

There's no question at all that the Iceman is one of the very best drivers in F1 history—perhaps even the quickest of all current drivers—when he is motivated and on his game.

But motivation has always been the question about Raikkonen. He doesn't apply himself as diligently away from the circuit as other top drivers—such as his teammate, Felipe Massa—and is known for his raucous playboy lifestyle in his spare time. 

There's no doubt that Ferrari are disappointed in what they have gotten on net from Raikkonen in the two-and-a-half seasons he has driven for them.

He delivered a world championship for them in his first season, but since then he has seemed to lack the motivation necessary to maintain championship-level performance, dipping below even his less-rated teammate Massa. Raikkonen's total performance certainly hasn't matched the expectation of total dominance that preceded his arrival to the Maranello team. 

Montezemolo's statement comes at a time when many are speculating that Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of the season to pursue a rally career, making way for Fernando Alonso to join the team.

The Finn insists that his recent foray into rallying is a hobby and that he is still very much interested in pursuing Formula One, although recent comments during the Rally Finland seemed to tell a different tale. 

The Formula One career of Kimi Raikkonen has reached its most pivotal moment. Ferrari is in a dark state, having lost the beloved Massa for the rest of the season to a horrible accident and the idolized Schumacher to a comeback-preventing neck injury.

This is not to mention the poor season the team are having with an under-performing car and the turbulence of significant personnel changes involving key members of the Schumacher-era squad. 

Maranello and the Tifosi need a hero to back, and right now they need it to be Raikkonen.

He will unquestionably be the No. 1 driver with the team now that test driver Luca Badoer will take the other seat. They don't need him to morph into Schumacher-like figure who is urging the team on, they just need him to deliver more performances like his Hungarian Grand Prix drive, which was simply outstanding. 

If Raikkonen responds to the call and finishes the season with more top drives and perhaps even a win, then we know that his heart is very much still in F1 and can look forward to seeing great years from the Iceman in F1.

If he doesn't, then one has to think that his F1 career, particularly with Maranello, is coming to a close.