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Can Raikkonen win a second title with Ferrari?
Friday 13th September 2013, 20:12 by Daniel Chalmers
Ferrari last won the drivers' title with Kimi Raikkonen (pictured) in 2007 (© Sutton Images)
On current form Ferrari may not seem like a great move for Kimi Raikkonen, but it was his only logical option if he wants a second title.
This is a team that hasn’t won a championship since 2008 and have rarely had the quickest car since.
It also shouldn’t be forgotten that this is the same team that paid him not to drive in 2010, so that they could bring the team leader they wanted in - Fernando Alonso.
One of the most important factors that Kimi will have considered is the 2014 regulation changes. The biggest of those changes is the introduction of 1.6 litre V6 turbo-charged engines. The change in the dimensions of the engine will also affect the rest of the car, including the aerodynamics.
Certainly if the rules were stable going into next season Ferrari wouldn’t be an attractive option at all. It would have been hard to see Ferrari being able to overtake Red Bull and indeed Mercedes.
However the rule changes are effectively a reset button. The competitive order could change completely.
Red Bull would have been the better option. We have seen in the past how brilliant Adrian Newey is at adapting to major rule changes. We saw it back in 1998 when the cars were narrowed and the tyres went from slicks to grooved. McLaren won both championships that year and then again in 1999
Then in 2009 the aerodynamic regulations were significantly changed and F1 went back to slick tyres. Red Bull has been the most successful team in F1 since then. However the option of joining the Milton Keynes squad closed when they opted to sign Daniel Ricciardo.
Mercedes are very likely to have a strong engine. Plus they have an army of technical directors working on the car. However they already have two contracted drivers in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Therefore the Brackley based team were never going to be an option either.
In an ideal world the next best option would have been to remain with Lotus.
This is a team that Raikkonen has loved driving for and they have enjoyed a great relationship. They understand and adapt to his unique personality. However the list in the cons column started to outgrow the list in the pros column.
The 2014 rule changes are really going to eat into team’s budgets. There have been plenty of rumours and stories about the financial situation at Lotus. Even if they are not all true there is no denying that Lotus simply doesn’t have the budget to match the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes.
With the new engine regulations having a works engine is going to be a key advantage. As it stands Lotus will be using Renault customer engines, as Red Bull is the Renault works team.
Renault will be manufacturing an engine to suit Red Bull’s requirements. Knowing Adrian Newey he will very particular about his what he wants from the engine, so that it fits in with his plans on the rest of the car. It will be like he is designing the engine. A scary thought.
Lotus will just get whatever engine Renault gives to Red Bull, and they will be forced to adapt their car to it.
Furthermore Lotus has been weakened on the technical side too with technical director James Allison moving to Ferrari.
Of course McLaren was another option. However like Lotus they will be using customer engines next year (until Honda joins in 2015). Also the Finn never liked all the PR and sponsor work he had to do when he drove for them in the past. There is a massive amount of that to do at McLaren compared to other teams.
Are Ferrari's recent technical signing's enough to get them ahead of Red Bull? Pictured: James Allison and Fernando Alonso (© Sutton Images)
So all things being considered Ferrari was the best move possible move. However there are lots of positives for Ferrari going into 2014. It is potentially the best moment to join them.
Despite recent failings the prospects look much better for Ferrari in 2014. Allison is one of the most talented engineers in the paddock and is certainly one of the team’s missing jigsaw pieces. He will have a big impact on the 2014 project.
Furthermore Ferrari also has Rory Bryne working on the 2014 car. He was one quarter of the dream team that were responsible for the team’s period of utter domination in the 2000s. He never quite got the same credit as Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn did, but his contribution was just as important. His record is up there with Newey’s.
Engines are going to have a much larger impact on the competitive order than they do currently. If Ferrari can do a great job with their 2014 engine then it could propel them to the front.
Ferrari hasn’t been strong in the aero department in recent years. With aero being by far the largest variable on F1 cars of late it’s a weakness that has been pretty painful. If engines become the decisive factor in F1 next year it could suit Ferrari right down the ground, if they get their engine right.
With new regulations there is always the chance that one team can find the perfect solution or idea, which leaves the opposition stumped. That’s exactly what we saw in 2009 when Brawn GP pioneered the double diffuser, which was key in their fairytale double championship victory.
As we have seen with Renault/Lotus in the past Allison is a very imaginative engineer and often thinks outside of the box. Ferrari now have someone who is capable of coming up with a potentially championship winning idea. He is one of the next best things after Newey.
It should also be remembered that Ferrari has a massive F1 budget. The importance of that can’t be underestimated with these huge new regulations.
Having two star drivers in the team is going to send lots of positivity round the factory at Maranello. When you have got two such strong drivers it gives that extra incentive to build a great car for them. You know that they will get every last thousandth of a second out of it.
One of the important factors for Kimi is whether he can manage to assert himself within the team, which will be critical with Alonso as his team-mate. The Spaniard has been with the team for the last four years so already knows everyone, and will want to continue to control the team. Of course Kimi will know many people from his first stint with Ferrari in 2007-2009.
The Finn will need to ensure that Alonso doesn’t get everything his own way, particularly when it comes to car development. The Spaniard prefers understeer to oversteer whereas the iceman is the other way round.
If he just turns up and drives, and lets Alonso do all the work he could end up on the back foot very quickly. He could end up driving a car that is perfect for Fernando and not him.
He can’t allow his team mate to consume all the air in the team like Felipe Massa did. He has to be able (and willing) to match his work rate in order to succeed. This is where the biggest question mark lies, and possibly the decider between success and failure.
However Kimi is older and wiser now. He has been more focused since he returned from rallying. He also appears to be more tolerable of the things he didn’t enjoy about F1 in the past. So we will see.
Another issue is that he needs to sort is his qualifying pace. It has been a problem ever since he returned to F1. However one lap pace isn’t Alonso’s strong suit either. It’s a weakness that he can target.
He needs to make sure that he rattles Fernando’s cage as much as possible. We saw how the Spaniard struggled to cope with Lewis Hamilton as team-mate in 2007. We have also seen him get flustered when Massa has been ahead of on the track in the past.
The iceman is very laid back, doesn’t get fazed easily and won’t panic or throw a hissy fit when he gets beaten by his team-mate. Those personality traits will serve him well.
Like Jenson Button alongside Hamilton at McLaren, Raikkonen isn’t going to start as the favourite at Ferrari. Most of the pressure is on Alonso to retain his number one position within the team. Kimi can push hard to beat his team mate without too much weight on his shoulders.
He has to make the most of the somewhat less harmonious relationship between Fernando and Ferrari. The best way to do that is to match him straight from the start of the year, putting the pressure on immediately.
The last thing to be mentioned is the characteristics of the 2014 cars in terms of what they will be like drive. That could have a huge say in the outcome of the Ferrari driver battle. Until the cars hit the track it’s hard to say whether they will suit Kimi more or Fernando more. The pendulum could swing either way there.
In conclusion Ferrari may not have been the first choice but there is nothing to lose, and potentially plenty to gain. If the team can adapt to 2014 and the Finn makes the most of the opportunity a second title is a possibility, albeit a tall order.
But it’s a chance worth taking.
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