How Kimi Raikkonen's seemingly unlikely return to Ferrari came to fruition
Sky F1's Mark Hughes on how Luca di Montezemelo had to be convinced and what the deal means for Fernando Alonso's position at Ferrari.
By Mark Hughes - @SportMPHMark
Coming into the Monza weekend many were adamant that the Raikkonen/Ferrari deal had already been done. It had not. The terms had been agreed IF Kimi decided to join.
But his preferred option was to get from Lotus the guarantees he sought for 2014 - which were financial and technical. He needed some solid evidence that the money was going to be there to compete at a high level and certain technical assurances.
He was unable to get those assurances in time and, with the window of opportunity at Ferrari threatening to close later in the week, it was only at the end of the weekend that Raikkonen gave Ferrari the nod. That's the way it was described by Kimi's manager Steve Robertson and that tallies absolutely with what Ferrari was saying coming into the weekend.
Ferrari's open admission for the first time that it was pursuing Raikkonen was a new element to the story as the circus gathered at Monza. For that admission to be made implied that Luca di Montezemelo had been persuaded to the logic of the recruitment of Kimi.
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One year ago he absolutely refused to countenance such a development. Back then, the management below di Montezemelo was already absolutely convinced that Raikkonen - a non-political driver with a great turn of speed, a points-harvesting machine - was the ideal partner to Fernando Alonso. In terms of helping the team to a constructors' championship, his consistent speed would surely be invaluable.
But there was one big, seemingly insurmountable problem, they said. Their boss, Luca di Montezemelo. Kimi had not been very respectful of him when the time came to leave and that was causing an impasse.
Subsequent to his being paid out of his contract one year early in order to make way for Fernando Alonso at the end of 2009, Raikkonen expressed his belief that it had all been to do with Ferrari's desire to get the Spanish bank Santander on board.
But that was only partly true; there were a couple of additional contributory factors, the more important of which was that Raikkonen's passiveness was not galvanising the team in the way it believed was necessary. It has historically operated best with a strong team leader - John Surtees, Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher. Ferrari felt that Alonso had already exhibited the traits it needed.
So Alonso - and Santander - were welcomed on board, while Kimi was paid to go away. Dismissing Felipe Massa - recovering from serious injury - would have been a brutal sacrifice and besides his lesser status made for an easier team-mate 'sell' to Alonso as to why he should join than Raikkonen would have been.
But it's a delicate balancing act between leading the team and criticising it and of late Alonso's frustrated comments have been perceived by Ferrari as divisive. The relationship between them has definitely deteriorated. Meanwhile, Massa's form after improving late last year and into 2013, then fell back to inconsistency.
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It became obvious that a more consistently strong team mate was needed. In late July the rumours about Raikkonen again surfaced - and a Ferrari spokesman said at the time that, 'It would be almost impossible to imagine' though stopped short of an outright denial. Somewhere between then and the Monza weekend Montezemelo was convinced of the logic of Raikkonen's recruitment, a process perhaps aided by the boss' irritation at Alonso's public criticism.
Alonso's preference was for Massa to stay, but clearly Ferrari was no longer in the mood to cater to Fernando's every demand. It made Raikkonen an offer - and all that remained was for Lotus not to be able to give the assurances he was seeking for next year and the return of Kimi, and one of the most fascinating driver line-ups of all time, was complete.