Formula 1

Kimi Raikkonen set for key battle against Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari

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When Kimi Raikkonen steps into his Ferrari in 2015 he faces perhaps the most crucial season of his F1 career.

After two largely successful years with Lotus, including two wins, the 'Iceman' made a much anticipated return to Maranello creating what most thought would be one of the most combustible partnerships in recent history alongside Fernando Alonso.

A difficult return

However, as the Spaniard continued to extract the absolute most from another underwhelming Prancing Horse, Raikkonen struggled as the F14-T just didn't suit his driving style and the expected fireworks never really materialised.

Now, with his former Lotus colleague James Allison in full control of the 2015 design, there are hopes that what most would consider a clean slate can help produce a car that Raikkonen can show off his still vast ability in next year.

Kimi could prosper in Vettel partnership

However, with expectations for 2015 much lower than they were for this year, the main focus will be on the battle between the two drivers behind the wheel. And for next year, Raikkonen has a team-mate that could potentially be capable of bringing the best out of the Finn both on and off the track.

With Alonso it was thought the contrasting personalities would see the pair work together but that was about it, but with Sebastian Vettel, the most obvious friendship Raikkonen has with another driver, we can expect a more relaxed atmosphere at Maranello which would likely suit Kimi much more.

Vettel an unknown quantity 

Therefore if the environment is right to see Raikkonen return to his best then it makes the level of success he achieves against Vettel on the track more important in terms of determining how good he really is. This is because despite Vettel being a four-time world champion he is still something of an unknown quantity.

We know how good he is at leading a race from the front and he has shown he is more than capable of battling wheel-to-wheel with the best in the business but his move to Ferrari will take him out of the comfortable and well known surroundings he had at Red Bull.

Advantage Raikkonen?

Instead it is Raikkonen who could be seen as the lead driver at the start of the season as he has four years experience at Ferrari whereas Vettel will still be settling in, so should the German come in and beat the Finn straight away what does that really say?

Is it that Vettel is a driver worthy of the legend status that goes with four world titles or perhaps is it Raikkonen isn't quite as good as we thought?

There is no doubting his talent. Indeed on the contrary he remains a driver you would trust to be competitive in whatever he drove and most are willing to overlook the large gap to Alonso at most races in 2014, given his struggles with the car and the fact it was his return year.

Determining a legacy

Of course Raikkonen has very little to prove given his achievements in F1, becoming world champion in 2007 and 20 race wins is a worthy CV for any driver, but there has perhaps been the theory that Raikkonen hasn't quite achieved what he could in the organisation.

He obviously came close to winning another two titles, finishing second to Michael Schumacher in 2003 and Fernando Alonso in 2005 while poor luck and unreliability also played a part.

There was the two years away from F1 when Raikkonen would have perhaps still been in the prime of his career but given how, since his return, Romain Grosjean became the lead driver towards the end of his spell at Lotus and Alonso beat him so comprehensively in 2014, if Raikkonen loses out to Vettel then the legacy he would leave could take a hit.

Another friendship put to the test

Clearly it's impossible to predict how competitive Ferrari will be in 2015, but for Raikkonen his main aim must be to simply beat his team-mat. Who knows, after one friendship was hit by on-track rivalry in 2014 maybe another might be hit in a similar way next year.

Formula 1

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