It's official: Kimi Raikkonen will return to Ferrari for 2014 to partner Fernando Alonso
Finn to replace Felipe Massa four years on from his exit
By James Galloway and Pete Gill
Last Updated: 13/09/13 7:25am
Ferrari's dramatic re-hiring of Raikkonen, their last Drivers' World Champion, for next season comes four years after the team paid him off for the final year of his contract to make way for the arrival of Alonso.
It's understood that terms on the deal were agreed late on Sunday night at Monza, with Ferrari announcing on Wednesday that Raikkonen had signed a two-year contract.
"Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has reached an agreement with Kimi Raikkonen," the team confirmed in a short statement.
"The Finn will join Fernando Alonso in the driver line-up for the next two racing seasons."
Raikkonen will become the first driver since Gerhard Berger two decades ago to return to Maranello for a second spell and will aim to bolster a record which saw him win nine races and the 2007 World Championship across his initial three-year stint.
"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," declared team boss Stefano Domenicali.
Although Raikkonen's impressive form since returning to the sport with Lotus in 2012 had made him a hot property in the 2014 driver market, a switch to World Champions Red Bull, rather than a return to Ferrari, had initially looked a far more likely scenario given the Italian team dropped him for Alonso - at a reputed cost of £20 million - at the end of the 2009 season and the Finn's relationship with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo was said to have soured.
However, although Raikkonen's management team did hold talks with Red Bull about the prospect of partnering Sebastian Vettel next season, negotiations broke down and the World Champions ultimately decided to promote Daniel Ricciardo from junior team Toro Rosso.
Talk of an unlikely reunion with Ferrari then gathered pace over the Italian GP weekend as Sky Sports F1 broke the news that, facing a fourth consecutive year in which Red Bull claimed a title double, Ferrari were preparing to rehire Raikkonen.
The Finn's appointment was then all-but confirmed late on Tuesday night when Felipe Massa announced he would be leaving the team.
The Brazilian may yet stay on in F1 by taking Raikkonen's seat at Lotus, although Sky F1 understands that Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg is the favourite to fill the looming vacancy.
But all eyes will be on Ferrari at the start of 2014 as the team prepare to break their longstanding convention of running with a clearly-defined number one driver by pitting two World Champions in direct combat against each other in a calculated gamble to break Red Bull's longstanding dominance.
"It will certainly put Alonso on his toes and it will be the strongest line-up in Formula 1 and I think it will be must watch television with those two head-to-head," said Sky Sports F1 analyst Martin Brundle.
"They go about their business in such different ways, it will be fascinating to see how they work together. But we have such huge changes to the car in 2014, the first half of the season will just be about understanding the new power packs."
Although Raikkonen's previous stint at Ferrari saw the team's driver hierarchy effectively distill into a joint number one policy owing to Massa's step forward in form in 2008, Alonso has enjoyed clear number-one status since arriving three years ago.
"I imagine FIAT [Ferrari majority owners] are tired of not winning the Constructors' Championship and netting the multi-million pound bonus that comes with it just because Massa isn't scoring enough points," mused Sky F1's Ted Kravitz.
"So while Kimi's move would help Ferrari do better in the constructors' race - it's inevitably going to lead to a change in the way Ferrari operate.
"Fernando has been indulged in having a clear number two driver who will do any work necessary to help him win the championship, but that's less likely to happen with Raikkonen in the other car, unless Kimi is mathematically out of the title race.
"So it will be a complete change in the way Ferrari operate. No longer will they be able to just send the number two out to test some new parts in unfavourable track conditions, for example, or deliberately incur a gearbox penalty to move Fernando onto the clean side of the grid, as they did in Austin last year, or get the other driver to do the boring long-running on a tyre in practice that Fernando doesn't want to do, using up valuable mileage, because Kimi won't do that."
How Sky Sports F1 broke the news of Raikkonen's blockbuster return
Friday: Sky F1 reveals Ferrari want Raikkonen to return
Friday: Stefano Domenicali refuses to deny Ferrari want Kimi back
Saturday: Ferrari preparing to go back to the future with Raikkonen
Monday: Terms agreed, but Ferrari make us wait
Tuesday: 'Raikkonen announcement imminent'
Tuesday: Felipe Massa to leave Ferrari