Sport : F1

Kimi Raikkonen

7th March 2014, 11:48am

Enigmatic, colourful, but always compelling, Kimi Raikkonen will return to Ferrari in 2014 as he seeks to cap his F1 comeback with a second World Championship title.

After a two-year sabbatical away from the unrelenting world of F1 in the World Rally Championship, Raikkonen's decision to return to single-seaters two years ago with Lotus was accompanied by a plethora of questions over his motivation levels after apparently falling out of love with the sport at the end of 2009.

But in characteristic Kimi style he answered those doubters, not with cliched soundbites in the paddock, but with consistently impressive results on track - a 2012 season which culminated in a 19th career win, third place in the Drivers' Championship, and the immortal "I know what I'm doing" retort to his race engineer as he triumphed in Abu Dhabi.

Another victory in the 2013 season opener at Australia followed to confirm Raikkonen's return to the top table of F1. But the year was ultimately marked by a severe and irreparable deterioration in his relationship with Lotus as the Finn revealed that he hadn't been "paid a euro" during the course of the campaign.

In September, his patience seemingly extinguished, Raikkonen announced that he would be returning to Ferrari as team-mate to Fernando Alonso. Their all-champion head-to-head contest is expected to be the duel of 2014.

What a contrast to 2001 when Raikkonen's arrival on the F1 scene was greeted with considerable skepticism and, in some quarters at least, alarm. The youngster had competed in just 23 car races when offered a deal by Sauber and his inexperience left other drivers wary of accepting someone with so few miles under his belt. Raikkonen proved his critics wrong.

His debut season with the midfield Swiss team was sensational, the youngster proving within just a handful of races that he was a special talent.

By the time Kimi's World Champion countryman Mika Hakkinen told Ron Dennis that he was thinking of taking a sabbatical in 2002, the race was on to sign the younger Finn - a race won by McLaren.

He finished the 2002 season in sixth place but began 2003 in dominant fashion, taking the chequered flag for a maiden win in Malaysia and the early points lead, despite having to race with a development version of the previous year's McLaren. The championship fight went to the wire in Japan, but a win for Rubens Barrichello guaranteed another title for Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher.

Hopes were high that Kimi could go one better in 2004 but McLaren endured a disappointing season while, in 2005, despite seven wins and an additional five podium finishes, the Finn had to settle for second place behind Fernando Alonso in the drivers' battle as reliability woes struck.

A winless 2006 followed for McLaren and at the end of the season Raikkonen had defected to great rivals Ferrari, the team having pinpointed him as the retiring Schumacher's successor.

He won on his debut in red in Australia but it wasn't until the summer that what had been a badly faltering title bid gained serious traction and Raikkonen seriously took the fight to in-fighting McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Alonso.

Despite being 17 points behind with only 20 to play for, the Finn somehow won the title against the odds with back-to-back wins in China and Brazil, thus finally becoming World Champion.

Many expected him to go on to further successes with Ferrari but in 2008 he played second fiddle to Felipe Massa and then in 2009, amid a disappointing season in general for Ferrari, he claimed just one race victory, in Belgium, and four additional podium finishes.

Nevertheless, it still came as a shock to many when Ferrari announced that they would part ways with Raikkonen by mutual agreement for 2010, the Finn paid off for the final year of his deal to make way for the incoming Alonso.

Despite talks over a return to McLaren, Raikkonen opted to turn his back on F1 and headed to rallying - a sojourn in which he experienced mixed success.

After on-off speculation that he would eventually come back to F1, Lotus announced at the end of 2011 that he would drive for them the following season, with Raikkonen quickly insisting that he was fully motivated for a return.

He proved as good as his word with the Finn scoring points in all but one of the season's 20 races and, after several near misses, a comeback race victory was finally achieved in Abu Dhabi - although arguably the most memorable aspect of Raikkonen's race was his increasingly agitated radio messages to his race engineer when given instructions!

Once again hailed as a top-tier driver, the success of Raikkonen's comeback was made official when Ferrari opted to re-hire Kimi as a replacement for the outgoing Massa.

Expect fireworks in 2014: the Iceman is well and truly back.

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