Ferrari: Räikkönen is back to his best
17 September 2013 – Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo believes that Kimi Räikkönen "has returned to greatness" since his short Formula 1 sabbatical and subsequent two-year spell with Lotus, tipping the Finn to shine during his second stint at Maranello.
Following last week's announcement that Räikkönen is to partner Fernando Alonso on a two-year deal from 2014, di Montezemolo has spoken out to describe the former World Champion as a new man compared to the one who left at the end of 2009.
And perhaps acting to further motivate Alonso, di Montezemolo hinted that Räikkönen could go on to emulate Niki Lauda, who spent two seasons on the sidelines before returning to the sport and later beating McLaren team-mate Alain Prost to the title.
"Räikkönen's case is identical to Lauda," he explained to Gazzetta dello Sport. "Niki at one point said 'enough' because he couldn't do it anymore. I'm speaking of the twin brother of Kimi, because the driver who we had racing for us wasn't the one we hired.
"The break has done him good; he has returned to greatness, he's won races and he's finished lots of races. I wanted a driver who wouldn't make me miss Massa: here he is. From Räikkönen I am demanding victories, consistency, podiums. Returning to Lauda, when he came back remember he beat Prost to the World Championship."
Di Montezemolo added that Ferrari refrained from signing a younger driver, such as Sauber's Nico Hülkenberg, as it wanted the certainty that Räikkönen could provide.
"The alternative of signing a young driver in a championship as complex as 2014 did not give us certainty," he said, referring to the major technical regulation changes. "Today Räikkönen is the strongest of them all, with Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton."
Although di Montezemolo stated last year that he did not want "two roosters in the same hen house" in future seasons, he says Alonso is "the first to be happy" with Räikkönen's impending arrival, and claims the Spaniard will benefit as a result.