Kimi Räikkönen’s transfer to the Ferrari stable was one that came seemingly out of nowhere. Most would have thought such a dramatic move was near impossible at the start of the year as Fernando Alonso would scarcely have accepted the return of Ferrari’s last world champion to ‘his team’.
And yet, it appears that the mercurial Spaniard can be more accommodating than we thought. Or does it? Last season, Alonso’s relations with Ferrari was placed on shaky ground following the implication that he sought out a Red Bull seat, the consensus being that Räikkönen was hired primarily to show the Spaniard who’s in charge. Either way, driver pairings featuring two F1 world champion drivers still at the peak of their careers are a rare occurence. Since 1970, we’ve only had three world champion pairings with differing results.
Take McLaren for example; Alain Prost was the defending world champion in 1986 when he was paired with Keke Rosberg, the 1982 championship winner. The Frenchman, however, dominated the Finn to such an extent that he retired at the end of the season, leaving Prost to win the championship again.
As a result, McLaren lost the Constructors Championship to Williams. Many will point to the explosive Prost-Senna pairing of 1988-1989, although one can only truly count that second year as Senna won his first world championship in 1988. We all know the sad ending to that story, but those two years saw utter domination of the sport by McLaren and Honda.
Fast forward 20 years and Jenson Button is signed to McLaren alongside Lewis Hamilton and though they won a number of races and generally complemented each other, there were no more championships for either the team or the drivers. Analysing the various pairings reveals a pattern that slowly emerges.
The pairings were all with McLaren and this point can be stretched further; the team also paired Fernando Alonso with Lewis Hamilton in 2007 when the Spaniard reigned world champion, and last but by no means least, Prost with Niki Lauda in 1984- 85 with the Austrian winning his final title in the first year and Prost winning his maiden championship in the second.
McLaren, unlike other F1 teams, don’t have a traditional first and second driver policy, preferring to let their drivers race against each other; a move that has at times proven detrimental to their goals.
Conversely, Ferrari is the most traditional of F1 teams with a customary configuration of lead and backup driver. This was clearly demonstrated during the Michael Schumacher era when Rubens Barrichello, Eddie Irvine and Felipe Massa were obliged to support the German throughout his domination. The only exception, perhaps, was when Räikkönen and Massa drove together from 2007-09.
While most punters are on the fence over how successful the Kimi-Fernando pairing will be, one can’t deny their individual achievements. There may be angry tantrums thrown, a few arguments over car development and Alonso’s patented Catalan death stare when Kimi stops testing to eat ice cream but overall, the future looks bright.
Images By Scuderia Ferrari F1