Kimi Raikkonen is set to replace Felipe Massa for 2014, but did the Italian team choose the right driver?
The second seat at Ferrari has been the talking point for many seasons now as the lacklustre performances of Felipe Massa saw many calling for him to be ousted from the team. However, he was shown great support by his fans, his team and Alonso, his team mate.
The team finally decided that in order to challenge for the title next year they needed a stronger, more consistent driver. One who’s best performances did not come when his seat was a risk or when he had been fired for the team.
Understandably, being a legendary team of not just Formula 1 but motorsport in general, Ferrari had the pick of the drivers and could choose the best one available. Notably, they were in talks with Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg, whilst names such as Paul di Resta and Jules Bianchi were also mentioned.
However, ultimately the team decided on Finnish driver, Kimi Raikkonen.
As soon as the news broke, this seemed like a risky and questionable move by the team. Their philosophy in the past has always been having clear number 1 and number 2 drivers. Massa always played second fiddle to Alonso, famously giving up a potential win to his team mate at Hockenheim in 2010.
But Raikkonen will not have given up a number 1 driver spot at a race winning team in order to support Alonso.
Recently, Raikkonen’s performances have been rather dire, especially compared to team mate Romain Grosjean and a decision to skip the end of the season in order to undergo surgery came of little surprise.
According to David Coulthard, the Italian team has become the brunt of a paddock joke as “Ferrari have signed the wrong Lotus driver”.
He does go on to say that there is little merit to this joke, as the Finn has outperformed his team mate over the past 2 years, even though he’s missing the end of this season.
But this does pose the question, is Raikkonen the correct choice?
Well, Raikkonen has scored a race win in both seasons since his return, something which Grosjean has not achieved. He has also finished high up in the championship with the likes of Alonso and Hamilton. It was looking likely that he would have finished third this year, until his decision not to race.
As to whether Ferrari picked the wrong Lotus driver, Grosjean endured a terrible first season in F1 last year, but has been a lot more consistent this year. He has shown great potential with a string of podium finishes and strong races. However, perhaps he needs to prove his worth for another season before moving to a team like Ferrari.
Hulkenberg’s form has also improved over the latter half of the season. He has qualified higher than perhaps he should have, like in Monza and Austin, and raced well in these instances.
The German has also shown he can race against the best, keeping drivers such as Alonso and Hamilton honest in races. There is no doubt that Hulkenberg deserves a decent seat in Formula 1 and should be a star of the future.
So should Ferrari be regretting their decision?
Not at all. Raikkonen is a good driver, one of the best on the grid. He has worked with the team before and experienced competing at the top. He is definitely a safe option, which is perhaps what the team needs. And let’s not forget, the last person to win a championship with Ferrari, is their “new” recruit, Kimi Raikkonen.
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