Ferrari is reportedly set to confirm in the next 48 hours that former driver Kimi Räikkönen will return to the fold from the 2014 season onwards as Fernando Alonso’s teammate.
According to reports in several major news outlets, the Finn’s deal was signed with the Maranello squad on Monday following another disappointing showing for the Lotus F1 team in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, where the 2007 champion finished outside the points.
Should he return to the squad, he and teammate Fernando Alonso – the 2005-6 World Champion – will be one of the strongest driver pairings in the field.
Ferrari had also been considering other drivers, namely Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta and Jules Bianchi, for the second seat, which has been occupied by Felipe Massa for the past eight seasons.
While Massa came within a whisker of winning the 2008 World Championship crown, the Brazilian suffered a near career-ending accident at the following year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, which many argue has left his pace and consistency affected ever since.
Räikkönen is clearly considered a more consistent driver after a very impressive return to the sport, but he will find himself engaged in a last-ditch attempt from Lotus to retain his services beyond the end of this season.
Räikkönen has made it clear that he needs assurances from the team – both financial and technical – that it would be able to compete as a frontrunning outfit next year. Earlier this year, the team lost the services of its Technical Director, James Allison, who moved to Ferrari mid-season.
Should Räikkönen return, it would mark a dramatic ‘full circle’ for the former champion, who was sacked by the team at the end of the 2009 season to make way for Alonso, who has been unable to claim the 33-year-old’s mantle as Ferrari’s last World Champion.
At this stage, all parties are remaining tight-lipped about a possible Räikkönen switch, but expect an announcement soon…