It was the worst kept secret in F1. Yet when Ferrari announced yesterday that Kimi Raikkonen would be partnering Fernando Alonso in their team next season, I’ll admit to letting out a little whoop of joy. Because I knew the announcement was great news for F1.
Of course, this is really bad news for some people. Most notably Felipe Massa, whose eight-year run at Ferrari will come to an end as the 2013 season draws to a close, and he leaves to make way for the returning Raikkonen.
It’s bad news for Nico Hulkenberg too, who was desperately hoping to secure a Ferrari drive for himself in 2014. And it’s also bad news for Lotus, who’ll lose their star driver for next year – although with Hulkenberg looking increasingly likely to be released by Sauber at the end of this season, maybe Lotus should pick up the phone and start negotiations with him now…
It may or may not be bad news for Alonso. Yes, he’s used to being the undisputed number one driver at Maranello, and he’s not going to like having another stallion in the Prancing Horse stable. Anyone who can remember his turbulent year at McLaren alongside the up-and-coming Hamilton in 2007 will already be expecting fireworks.
On the other hand, Raikkonen’s arrival could force Alonso to raise his game. It’s been a log time since he’s had to prove himself against an equal teammate – and he’ll be all too aware that Kimi won’t be moving aside if he gets the call to say ‘Fernando is faster than you.’
I would argue that Alonso is already at the top of his game, given that he’s achieving race wins in a car that’s nowhere near as good as the Red Bulls and Mercedes. But could being pitted against another World Champion in the same machinery force him to find that little something extra? It’s certainly a tantalising prospect for those of us watching at home.
And this is precisely why I think Raikkonen’s move to Ferrari is extremely good news for the fans, and for the sport as a whole. Nobody can deny that the races have become a little stale of late, with pundits even joking that drivers are racing in two classes now – Sebastian Vettel, and the rest of the pack.
It’s been a long time since we’ve been given the chance to see two such dominant champions at the same team, fighting in the same car. Teams naturally favour having a stand out number one driver, to avoid any inter-team squabbles on the track, and keep their star drivers happy.
But as Ferrari have proved over the past few years, having a second driver who’s scoring less than half the points of their top driver just isn’t working. They need to maximise their ability to score points next year if they’re to stand any chance of bringing the trophy back to Italy again.
Watching Alonso and Raikkonen go head to head next year is going to up the ante for everyone, and will hopefully see a team other than Red Bull stepping up to the plate and fighting for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships.
It’ll be all-change in F1 next year anyway, with the new V6 turbo engines coming in. And Ferrari already know that they need to pull something special out of the bag if they’re to take the fight to Red Bull.
But with Alonso and Raikkonen at the wheel, they’ve got a good chance of doing so. In fact, I’m off to put my bet on right now that Ferrari will win the Constructors’ title in 2014… By Sarah Ellis