Kimi Raikkonen may have returned to Ferrari to finish his formula one career with a final challenge, according to Lotus team boss Eric Boullier. When Wednesday's news broke, Lotus admitted on Twitter that losing the Finn "hurts a little" -- the quote was attached to a bizarre photo of forceful copulation between two rabbits.
But team boss Boullier insists the Enstone based team is not "bitter". In fact, the Frenchman said he understands Raikkonen's decision. "You know, we remain a medium-sized team and there are some areas in which we're not in a position to fight against the other top teams just yet," he said.
Boullier told French-language RMC Sport: "Ferrari is a great institution, he has signed for two seasons so maybe he wants to finish his career with a big challenge. Don't forget that two years ago, we took the risk (on signing Raikkonen) and it turned out a great adventure. This is the end of one story but we'll write a new one beginning next year."
But is the Frenchman merely papering over the real story of Raikkonen's departure, after it emerged the 2007 world champion has often been left waiting for his salary? "It wasn't just the financial aspect," said Boullier, "I think he is also thinking about his retirement, although definitely he will be better paid at Ferrari. I think there is also an emotional side about wanting to end his career at Ferrari. Then there is the ego side -- I guess he wants to compete on equal terms with Alonso," he added.
Former driver Mika Salo, who like Raikkonen is Finnish, thinks the 33-year-old has made the right choice between Lotus and Ferrari for 2014. "I foresee that Ferrari and Mercedes will be the strongest teams in formula one," he told the broadcaster MTV3. "They have been long engaged in the development of the new turbo engine and have the best resources of all the teams in the championship," said Salo, "although Red Bull will of course be in the top three."
Some, however, have expressed major surprise that Ferrari has dispensed with its 'number 1' policy and put two truly top drivers together for 2014. "It is unlikely Kimi is going to think about his teammate, so to some extent Alonso will not be happy," Salo said.
"But F1 teams are actually organised so that there are really two teams on either side (of the garage)," he explained. "In any case, Ferrari has an absolutely incredible lineup now, although it feels a little like the old days, with Senna against Prost," added Salo.
Boss Stefano Domenicali denies that Ferrari's 2014 pairing is a major break for the Maranello team, insisting drivers "have always started on equal terms". But what about Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo's long reluctance to put 'two roosters in the henhouse?' Domenicali doesn't think there will be trouble.
"For anyone thinking that the choice of Kimi is somehow an anti-Alonso choice, I can put their minds at rest," he said. "At Ferrari, everyone knows the interests of the team come first and only then those of the individual. I'm sure he is the first to be happy with a choice made to strengthen the group, because he is too intelligent not to realise that a stronger team can only be an advantage," added Domenicali.
The pundits are not yet convinced. Christian Danner, a commentator for German television, told Sport1 that Raikkonen's arrival could spell major trouble. "Whenever Alonso has an equal teammate, there is a massacre," he said. "It will happen again for sure."
On the other hand, that 'massacre' could power a lot of points for Ferrari, Lotus' third driver Davide Valsecchi told the Panorama publication. "All the teams would love to be in Ferrari's position," he said. "Even though it may not always be perfect, I'm sure they will get enough points to take the constructors' championship back to Maranello. And that's ultimately the one with the most importance."
Helmut Marko, a leading figure at Red Bull, agrees with Valsecchi, because even though the drivers' title is the high-profile one, it is the teams' battle that brings the big money to a team. He told Der Spiegel: "Raikkonen and Alonso is bad for us, because Ferrari will now earn more points as a team. But Raikkonen and Alonso is good for Vettel, because they (the Ferrari drivers) will take points away from each other." (GMM)