(Reuters) - Ferrari say their decision to bring 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen back to the Formula One team next season will help and not hurt Fernando Alonso’s chances.
“For anyone thinking that the choice of Kimi is somehow an anti-Alonso choice, I can put their minds at rest,” team principal Stefano Domenicali told the team website (www.ferrari.com).
“At Ferrari, everyone knows the interests of the team come first and only then those of the individual. Fernando is a key asset for this team and he will be for a long time.
“I’m sure he is the first to be happy with a choice made to strengthen the group, because he is too intelligent not to realize that a stronger team can only be an advantage,” added the Italian.
Double world champion Alonso had made clear before the appointment that he would be happy to continue with under-performing Brazilian Felipe Massa as his team mate.
In comments on Wednesday, after the announcement from Maranello, the Spaniard paid tribute to the departing Massa and welcomed his new “travelling companion” without mentioning the Finn by name.
Domenicali said the driver combination of Alonso and Raikkonen was the best Ferrari could have and both would start on equal terms.
The Italian also addressed concerns about Raikkonen’s ability to work as a team player and in helping to develop and improve the car technically.
“Everyone has their own ways and you can’t expect a Finn to start telling jokes in Italian or playing the clown,” he said. “Honestly, I think the combination of Fernando’s expressive and passionate Latin character and the cool style, to call it that, of someone like Kimi, seems to appeal to many.
“As for the technical side of things, not only do we know full well how much Kimi can contribute at an important time like this...but we also have first hand information from James Allison, as to how much the Finn has also progressed in this area over the past two years.”
Allison was with Raikkonen at Lotus, where he was technical director, before starting work with Ferrari this month.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Alison Wildey