Kimi Raikkonen has rejoined Ferrari to partner Fernando Alonso in 2014
The Finn won the 2007 Formula One world title with Ferrari after replacing Michael Schumacher
Ferrari terminated Raikkonen's contract in 2009 to make way for Alonso
Felipe Massa leaves the Italian team after eight years
The Iceman has returned to fire up Ferrari.
The legendary Formula One team has re-signed Finn Kimi Raikkonen to partner Fernando Alonso in 2014.
The Italian marque is replacing Brazilian Felipe Massa with its 2007 world champion as it seeks to end an era of Red Bull dominance.
“Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has reached an agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” read a statement on the team’s official website. “The Finn will join Fernando Alonso in the driver lineup for the next two racing seasons.”
Raikkonen spoke of his pleasure at returning to the team which had employed him between 2007 and 2009.
“I am really happy to be returning to Maranello where I previously spent three fantastic and very successful years,” Raikkonen said.
“I have so many memories of my time at Ferrari, memories which have stayed with me these past years.
“I can’t wait to be driving a Prancing Horse car again and to reacquaint myself with so many people with whom I had such close links.”
Old foes, new friends?
Ferrari will be the only team to race two world champions next season, making it the most potent, but potentially risky, pairing on the grid.
Commenting on his new teammate, Alonso said: “I’d like to welcome my new traveling companion: together, starting next year, we will have to tackle a very demanding technical and racing challenge.”
Raikkonen added that he considered the Spanish double world champion, “a great driver.”
Ferrari released Raikkonen in 2009 – ending his multimillion-dollar contract a year early – to make way for Alonso as its number one driver alongside Massa.
Raikkonen said at the time he was “very sad” to leave Ferrari and he immediately quit F1 to pursue rallying.
That backdrop feeds a fascinating dynamic between Raikkonen and Alonso as they work together as teammates next season.
Pairing Alonso with another ambitious and capable driver is a risk – a problem McLaren had to face when it signed the Spaniard alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2007.
Alonso, who won back-to-back world titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006, left McLaren after a single season in which he and Hamilton fought over No. 1 status within the team.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had said earlier this year he did not want “two roosters in the same henhouse” but that view softened at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Di Montezemolo gave Raikkonen the green light ahead of Massa and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who had also been linked with a move to Ferrari next season.
Massa, who was retained by Ferrari after recovering from a life-threatening head injury at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, announced his departure Monday.
The 32-year-old revealed on his Twitter account: “From 2014 I will no longer be driving for Ferrari.
“I would like to thank the team for all the victories and incredible moments experienced together.
“Right now I want to push as hard as possible with Ferrari for the remaining seven races. For next year, I want to find a team that can give me a competitive car to win many more races and challenge for the championship which remains my greatest objective!”
Raikkonen, who has won two races since returning to F1 with Lotus in 2011, will be determined to fight for victories – something Massa has struggled to do alongside Alonso.
The Brazilian, who has spent eight years at Ferrari, has not won a race during his tenure as Alonso’s teammate while the former Renault star has won 11 grands prix since joining Ferrari in 2010.
Raikkonen – nicknamed “the Iceman” – is not expected to be cowed by Alonso’s strong personality or his abilities on track.
Ferrari will hope their “fire and ice” combination will bring out the best in each other as it seeks to win its first team title since 2008.
Team principal Stefano Domenicali chose only to focus on Raikkonen’s comeback Wednesday, saying: “I sense he is very happy to be returning to Maranello and very determined to tackle the work that awaits him in the best way possible.”
Ferrari’s late founder Enzo Ferrari had a reputation for encouraging rivalry between his drivers but Ferrari has preferred to adopt a policy of focusing on a lead driver since Michael Schumacher joined in 1996.
Silent but deadly
Raikkonen is as renowned for his reticence as he is for his pure speed – the 33-year-old simply prefers to do his talking on the track.
But his occasional, pithy one-liners have earned him a legion of global fans.
His comment to Lotus on team radio as he raced to victory in Abu Dhabi last year (“Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”) was so popular it has appeared as a slogan on t-shirts and mugs.
Back in 2001, Raikkonen was fast tracked into F1 by Sauber after competing in a mere 23 races in motorsport’s junior categories.
McLaren was the next team to recognize Raikkonen’s natural talent, and snapped him up on a long-term deal in 2002.
The following season, Raikkonen took Schumacher down to the final race of the season in a thrilling championship but he would have to wait for the German to retire before finally getting his hands on an elusive world title.
Ferrari chose Raikkonen as Schumacher’s replacement in 2007, hiring him for a reported $41 million.
He soon earned his corn, bringing the drivers’ title back to Ferrari after seeing off Hamilton by a single point.
Ferrari has now returned to Raikkonen for a quick fix as the Scuderia desperately seeks to rein in the all-conquering Red Bull team.
Raikkonen, who turns 34 in October, will not be able to offer a long-term solution – but Ferrari chiefs are gambling on the fact that given the right car he will deliver, and deliver quickly.