In the wake of recent rumors regarding the Raikkonen to Ferrari move, Pitlanetalk analyzes the story and its credibility, and predicts a potential outcome by the arrival of the Italian Grand Prix.
August is an excellent month to stir some pot. Since Formula 1 goes on vacation, all on-track activities and championship fights lose space on newspaper headlines, and are replaced by various rumors and crazy speculations in the driver market.
Raikkonen is a victim of such speculations. He’s in his second year at Lotus with no signed contract for next season. Add to that claims about late salary payments and huge financial irregularities, and the wheels slowly start turning.
First, he is obviously linked with Red Bull, after Mark Webber announced his retirement, leaving the second seat open. But in recent days Finnish and German media claimed he had negotiations with Ferrari, with a deal already on the table.
WHAT THE MEDIA ARE CLAIMING ABOUT THE DEAL.
Finnish media, including the biggest newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat, are saying they have 100% reliable sources that Ferrari have closed a 3-year deal with Raikkonen and an announcement will happen in Monza. The news exploded faster than the Lewis to Mercedes story, with BBC, RTL and Bild picking up the scent as well. Raikkonen would replace Felipe Massa and join Fernando Alonso.
BBC’s sources confirmed that Ferrari have a strong interest in replacing Massa with the Finn. At least senior figures want to.
Autosport, a website that never reports rumors or speculations, only concrete news, claimed last year that Raikkonen was on Ferrari’s radar for 2013. But Felipe Massa proved worthy enough in the second half of the season for Ferrari to retain him. Will that be the case again this year? Or did Raikkonen sign a preliminary contract already last year with Ferrari?
HOW CREDIBLE ARE THESE RUMORS?
So, so. The primary source for these news is a Finnish tabloid, Ilta-Sanomat. They broke the story first and later other websites picked it up.
IS were the first to report Raikkonen joining Ferrari back in 2006. They were spot on. But they were wrong about many things in the past. Fact is that it’s a tabloid with little to no connections in Formula 1. So there’s a very low chance that the story is actually true.
Then again, bigger websites such as Bild believed the reports and published the news, while other more credible pundits, such as BBC’s Andrew Benson and James Allen, claimed that Raikkonen will not be joining Ferrari while Montezemolo is in charge.
Autosport’s article from last year is the backbone for these rumors. Ferrari and Raikkonen were in contact last season, but negotiations failed for unknown reasons (there’s a strong hint that Montezemolo vetoed the decision). Could it be that they signed a preliminary contract, valid from 2014?
WHY THE DEAL MAKES SENSE FOR FERRARI.
Ferrari are seeking to replace a weak Massa, who has not scored sufficient points in the last 3 seasons.
Raikkonen’s signing would make sense because of two reasons: 1. he is consistent enough to score strong points and 2. he is a world champion at Scuderia. If Ferrari are hoping to have a stronger 2014, they will need a stronger driver. A Raikkonen and Alonso lineup would be the strongest on the grid, followed by Hamilton and Rosberg at Mercedes. This increases their chances to fight at least for the WCC.
Ferrari also need a breath of fresh air. Recent disappointments have brought team morale down, and Raikkonen’s arrival would no doubt boost some spirits. They need any strong addition they can get to recover after a slightly disappointing first half of the season.
WHY THE DEAL WILL NOT HAPPEN
Ferrari boss, Luca di Montezemolo had a shaky relationship with Raikkonen, who was not very keen on respecting politics and hierarchies. He was a loose cannon.
He was slammed as slow, unmotivated and lazy in 2008 and 2009. Santander payed Ferrari to terminate the Finn’s contract one year early, so he can make room for Fernando Alonso. They couldn’t get rid of a hospitalized Felipe Massa (bad PR an whatnot), so Raikkonen had to get the short end of the straw.
Rehiring him would essentially be an admission that Ferrari made a mistake by letting him go in 2009. Montezemolo has an ego strong enough not to create a situation like that for his prestigious team. Even though they are desperate for another title, they want a championship with Fernando Alonso, without complicating things with a driver like Raikkonen.
So even though senior figures at Ferrari consider that Raikkonen is an excellent candidate, it’s Montezemolo who will make the decision in the end. And as long as he is in charge, Raikkonen will not set foot in a Ferrari F1 car.
Besides, they have plenty of other good options: Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta, They are experienced enough and eager to prove their talents in a top team.
WHERE WILL RAIKKONEN END UP?
At the moment, Lotus might be a good prediction. It’s a safe bet, but the best bet nonetheless.
Word in the paddock is that Ricciardo has a very strong chance now to join Red Bull. The Austrians haven’t managed to cook up a deal with Raikkonen yet, and the more time passes without progress on a contract, the more likely that Ricciardo has it in the bag.
In Hungary, pundits predicted a 60% chance that Ricciardo gets the seat., Helmut Marko is pushing for the Australian, and negotiations with Raikkonen have slowed down significantly. The Finn has a lower and lower chance the closer we get to the Belgian Grand Prix.