The wild rumors have reached a definitive conclusion: Finnish Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen is leaving Lotus to return to his former team, Scuderia Ferrari, for the 2014 season. Raikkonen, who won his solitary F1 championship in his first year with the Italian team in 2007, is taking Felipe Massa's seat to drive alongside double champion Fernando Alonso. Now, who wouldn't pay to watch a pair like that compete with each other?
Raikkonen started his F1 career with Sauber in 2001, impressing everyone so much during his rookie season that McLaren promptly snapped him up the following year. However, despite racing for McLaren for five years, Raikkonen failed to win the title behind the wheel of a Silver Arrow car.
Beginning with the 2007 season, Raikkonen was hired by Ferrari to fill a gaping void left by seven-time champion Michael Schumacher. The Finn won the title in his maiden year with Ferrari, doing so by edging both Alonso and teammate Lewis Hamilton of McLaren by a single point.
After winning the championship, Raikkonen went on to spend two listless years with Ferrari before his contract was bought out after the 2009 season so that Alonso could take his place. He left F1 to do some rallying, before eventually returning in 2012 with Lotus. Once back in a Formula 1 car, Raikkonen quickly showed his old form, winning races even with a middle-of-the-pack car.
Raikkonen's new contract with Ferrari is for two seasons.
"I am really happy to be returning to Maranello where I previously spent three fantastic and very successful years," he said. "I have so many memories of my time at Ferrari, memories which have stayed with me these past years, first and foremost, winning the championship in 2007, which was really unforgettable. I can't wait to be driving a Prancing Horse car again and to reacquaint myself with so many people with whom I had such close links, as well as working with Fernando, whom I consider a great driver, in order to bring the team the success it deserves."
Is Alonso worried? Honestly, he should be, considering Raikkonen's pace and audacity, but he isn't showing it. "I'd like to welcome my new traveling companion," Alonso said, referring to Raikkonen. "Together, starting next year, we will have to tackle a very demanding technical and racing challenge."
As for Massa, he sent out this tweet after the official announcement of Raikkonen's hiring: "As from 2014, I will no longer drive for Ferrari. I wish to thank the team for all the wins and the wonderful times we spent together. I thank my wife and my entire family, all my fans and my sponsors. I have always enjoyed great support from all of them. Now, I want to push as hard as possible with Ferrari for these final seven races. For 2014, I would like to find a team that can give me a competitive car, capable of winning a lot of races and a championship, which continues to be my greatest dream! Thank you everyone!"