Kimi Raikkonen’s future in Formula 1 continues to top the headlines ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, with speculation that the Finn is set to return to Ferrari, the team he won his only world championship with in 2007, intensifies.
On Monday, his manager Steve Robertson said the 20-time Formula 1 race winner would not be driving for world champions Red Bull next season, with Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo set to get the seat alongside reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.
That seemingly leaves Raikkonen, 33, with two options – stay with Lotus for a third season or move back to Ferrari, the team which paid him not race for them in 2010 after ending his contract early.
The speculation started when Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat reported that Raikkonen had already agreed a move back to Ferrari. The Italian team say that no decision has yet been made about their driver line-up.
The BBC’s Eddie Jordan claims that the Finn wants a move back to Ferrari, and that a deal may be as soon as next month’s Italian Grand Prix. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has not been keen on the idea of the return of a man who they released from his contract, instead deciding to partner Felipe Massa with Fernando Alonso in 2010.
But Italian newspaper Gazetta dello Sport suggested that Montezemolo would sanction the move for Raikkonen if he was the best driver available. That would of course create some interesting questions for Ferrari, with Alonso and Raikkonen forming the strongest driver line-up on the grid.
During the Michael Schumacher era, the team put all their support behind the German’s title challenge, with Rubens Barrichello playing a supporting role. The team changed their strategy when Massa partnered Raikkonen, with the two drivers allowed to race.
Raikkonen won the title in 2007, but it was Massa who was the stronger driver in 2008, narrowly missing out on the championship to Lewis Hamilton, and in 2009 before his accident in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
They returned to their strategy of favouring one driver with Alonso and Massa, largely because Massa has been unable to challenge for the title. Will the team be prepared to allow their drivers to race again if Raikkonen and Alonso are team-mates?
It would certainly help their chances of winning the constructors’ championship for the first time since 2008. However, it would hamper their chances in the drivers’ championship with Alonso and Raikkonen taking points off each other.
There is of course the question of how Alonso will feel about having such a competitive team-mate, especially after his explosive partnership with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren during the 2007 season.
And Raikkonen needs to decide whether he believes Lotus can provide him with a car that can challenge for the World Championship in 2014 or whether a drive at Ferrari, where he finished first, third and sixth overall during his three seasons with the team, would be a better option.