With Räikkönen on Board, Ferrari’s F1 Team is a Powder Keg for 2014
Kimi Räikkönen winning the Australian GP. From the Lotus F1 Facebook page
Formula 1’s silly season was somewhat ended this week when current Lotus racer Kimi Räikkönen was finally pegged to a team for 2014; despite insistent rumors that the Finn would be supplanting Mark Webber at Red Bull, Räikkönen will instead replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari. The move to throw two of the best non-Vettel racers on the same team is a clear indication that Ferrari isn’t content playing second fiddle to a team backed by an energy drink, and will be bringing the fight to Red Bull’s doorstep in 2014. Credit for some of Red Bull’s success this season must be given to Mark Webber, who, despite clearly being the team’s number two, has finished in the top 7 every race save for his retirement in China. As a constructor, Red Bull is likely to be fighting with a handicap next year anyway with Daniel Ricciardo graduating from Scuderia Toro Rosso, so the 1-2 punch of Alonso and Räikkönen may prove to be too much for Red Bull to handle next year. That is, if the two Ferrari drivers don’t kill each other first.
Both drivers are former World Champions, with Alonso clinching the 2005-06 seasons and Räikkönen owning 2007. Alonso is currently in second in the Driver’s Standings, with Lewis Hamilton and Räikkönen within spitting distance, and the Finn’s Lotus E21 is slightly inferior to the Ferrari F138. Next year both Alonso and Räikkönen will be on equal ground, and the talent and egos of the two drivers could spark a rivalry similar to the one between Webber and Vettel. But while Webber is certainly a talented driver in his own right, he never posed a serious threat to Vettel’s dominance of the sport. Considering that they are so close together in the standings and fighting valiantly in every race, the forced marriage of Räikkönen and Alonso is likely to cause friction in Ferrari’s camp.
Adding to the drama is Räikkönen’s famously aloof personality. Ferrari let Räikkönen go after the 2009 season despite his having secured a spot until the end of 2010, and it is hard to believe that Räikkönen will rejoin the team without remembering the time Ferrari cut him loose. Obsequious team orders are sure to be ignored by both drivers and would further drive a wedge between the two. Both have a deep well of experience to draw from and are massively gifted on the circuit, but they won’t be team players.
Watchers of Formula 1 are already prophesying a return of the Senna-Prost days, and it’s easy to see why. Senna and Prost were at the top of their game and both were driving terribly fast and competitive cars, just like Räikkönen and Alonso will next year (assuming Ferrari can successfully create an aggressive turbo V6, which is the mandated engine next year).
All of these factors, from the Red Bull switch up, the driver change at Ferrari, and the new engines are molding 2014 to be a transformative season for Formula 1. Two months and seven races are left in 2013, and Alonso and Räikkönen are both likely to finish in the top 5. Their feelings about the order and circumstances in which they close the season, however, will assuredly drive their performance next year.