Ferrari has confirmed what everyone has expected, announcing that Kimi Räikkönen will return to the team next year on a two-year deal.
The Finn – Ferrari’s last World Champion – replaces Felipe Massa, who had previously announced that his eight-year term with the team was coming to an end.
“I sense he is very happy to be returning to Maranello and very determined to tackle the work that awaits him in the best way possible,” Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said.
Räikkönen’s first Ferrari stint kicked off in 2007, winning his first race in Ferrari colours en route to claiming a come-from-behind championship title by one point at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
But his form dipped as the team struggled to repeat its successes of 2007, and at the end of the 2009 season the team opted to pay him out of the final year of his contract in order to create a seat for Fernando Alonso.
Räikkönen took a two-year sabattical in rallying before making his F1 comeback with Lotus last year. After showing he’d lost none of his speed, the Finn became a hot commodity on the F1 driver market, with Red Bull Racing unsuccessfully courting his services for the 2014 season.
He was believed to be considering a third season with Lotus, but with the outfit being unable to guarantee the technical and financial resources he needed, he has instead signed on the dotted line with Ferrari as Alonso’s teammate.
The announcement will mean that Ferrari will have two World Champions in its line-up for the first time in over 60 years, while fans will also be salivating at the prospect of two number-one drivers duking it out for the 2014 championship honours.
With Räikkönen’s departure from Lotus now confirmed, the driver market’s attention will now switch to who can claim the seat with the Enstone outfit. Nico Hülkenberg remains the leading candidate, but Lotus management have also confirmed that Massa’s management has approached the team to see if the Brazilian could be in contention for one of the few frontrunning drives left available.