A succession of past-Ferrari drivers will tell you that driving for the most famous and historic team in F1 was the pinnacle of their careers; that to have the hopes and pressures of an entire motoring-mad nation upon their shoulders meant that to win in Italian-racing-red provided satisfaction and joy unrivalled by any other team, and gave them the motivation to reach heights they would never otherwise have reached.
Another, all-together different group of drivers won't be as enthusiastic or as effusive in their praise. For every Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, there is an Eddie Irvine, a Felipe Massa, a Rubens Barrichello. The Ferrari team structure takes its cues from Machiavelli, and is geared towards maximising the performance of one driver to give them the best chance of winning the Championship, in the process sacrificing the other. So much so that in recent times to be the junior or second driver at Ferrari usually results in not satisfaction and joy, but frustration and stagnation.
Occupiers of Ferrari's second seat have often joined the team on the basis of a growing reputation, having displayed flashes of brilliance, and ironically, a consistent ability to drive a Formula One car faster than their team-mates. They have left beaten and bruised by the sheer cold logic of Machiavellian tactics, and a shadow of their former selves; reputations depleted rather than enhanced.
Kimi Raikkonen experienced both sides of the coin in his Ferrari career, first as the beneficiary, second as the unhappy and unloved supporter. Ferrari in 2012 is indisputably the team of Fernando Alonso, and there is no ambiguity about it. The car has been designed specifically around his driving style, and Massa's continued performance discrepancy to the championship leader is testament to that. If Raikkonen was to return to the team he left in 2009, he would be making a huge error at a time when he is swiftly rebuilding his reputation as one of the best drivers in the sport.
Ferrari DNA, shown emphatically in Austria in 2002 and in Hockenheim in 2010, although effective and in some respects enviable, provides no room for sentiment or empathy. With the cards already stacked against him, he would arrive at Maranello before the 2013 season in the knowledge that he would have to consistently outperform his team-mate to stand even the remotest chance of equal treatment.
Of course, Kimi is intelligent and will have been able to work this out himself. Yet, he is also an F1 driver and a World Champion. To become either, you have to, among other things, have an insatiable desire to win, and the need to prove yourself on the biggest of stages.
To become both and win the World Championship, you have to have total unwavering belief in your ability. Raikkonen may well see Alonso as a challenge that he can surmount, and the idea that he can't will only serve to increase the desire to prove doubters wrong. Fighting spirit may indeed override logic. Hopefully not; Lotus are cementing themselves as a top team in their own right, and have the infrastructure to become legitimate title contenders. He has the full backing of a team that is willing to build around him, and perhaps more importantly is prepared to let him be himself, and not place the concerns of corporate sponsors or the needs of a nation at his feet.
Ever a man to do his own thing, these aspects of driving for McLaren and Ferrari contributed to his alienation from the F1 world, and his subsequent two year rally stint. It was the lure of unrivalled speed and the feeling of unfinished business that brought him back, and his best chance of finishing that business is by embarking on a multi-year project with Lotus, culminating in his second world title.
But it is entirely possible that the mercurial Finn will see things differently.
by Joshua Bonser