x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Raikkonen is heading back to Ferrari, to link up with the guy who replaced him and take the seat of the man who out-drove him with the same machinery in 2008.

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen will replace the Brazilian Felipe Massa who was his teammate at Ferrari in 2008. Paul Gilham / Getty Images
Finland's Kimi Raikkonen will replace the Brazilian Felipe Massa who was his teammate at Ferrari in 2008. Paul Gilham / Getty Images

It is not too hard to find the irony in Ferrari turning to the man who they paid to leave the team in 2009 to help revitalise them next year.

The original marriage between Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen had looked as if it would prove to be extremely fruitful when, in his first season with the team in 2007, he won the world championship.

But then it all went wrong. Raikkonen began being beaten regularly by Felipe Massa and ended up helping the Brazilian in his ultimately doomed quest to be champion in 2008 in the final races.

That was not what Raikkonen or Ferrari had envisaged, the Finn playing second fiddle, and 2009 was not helped by the car being poor, leaving both cars in the midfield.

Clearly disillusioned with F1 and the public relations commitments demanded by Ferrari and the sport, he decided to try his hand at rallying.

This suited Ferrari, who were eyeing up Fernando Alonso, the 2005 and 2006 world champion, and they bought out the last year of Raikkonen's contract to get the Spaniard in the car, leaving the Finn to have a go at the World Rally Championship.

Fast forward nearly four years and Raikkonen is heading back to Ferrari, to link up with the guy who replaced him and take the seat of the man who out-drove him with the same machinery in 2008.

Odd, but F1 is nothing if unpredictable, at least off the track anyway.

Raikkonen has rediscovered his love for F1 in his two years back in the sport with Lotus after his brief tryst with rallying, and though he has not had many chances to win, he has triumphed on the two occasions he got himself in front, and scored points consistently when victory was not possible.

The Ferrari/Alonso relationship has begun to fray at the edges, the Spaniard's frustrations at seeing Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing winning all before them for a fourth successive season beginning to seep through.

The move to bring in Raikkonen appears two-fold.

He will do a better job than Massa, who, while solid, has scored just one podium this season and has not genuinely been in contention for a race win since he was told to move over by team bosses for Alonso at Hockenheim in 2010 while in front.

He will also push Alonso harder and no longer will the Spaniard be the defunct No 1 in the team. He will not be able to bully the Finn the way he did Massa.

Watching the two world champions in the same car will be fascinating, particularly to see how Alonso handles having the strongest teammate he has had since his fractious 2007 season when he had Lewis Hamilton alongside him at McLaren.

Alonso has since claimed his problems in 2007 were with McLaren and not Hamilton and the good relationship the two now have appears to bear that out.

Raikkonen is his own man, though. Loved by the public for his eccentricities, he will not be afraid to stand his ground with Alonso and that is why 2014 has suddenly become a lot more interesting.

gcaygill@thenational.ae