Kimi Räikkönen consummated his maiden campaign at Ferrari with a World Championship.
When the Finn was unceremoniously ousted just two years later, nobody could have envisaged he’d ever drive another red car.
Fast-forward five seasons, this is exactly what has transpired, with Räikkönen returning to the prancing horse stable, alongside the man who replaced him, Fernando Alonso.
But the second engagement between Räikkönen and Ferrari hasn’t been a happy one.
Räikkönen has amassed barely a quarter of team-mate Alonso’s tally, a pair of seventh places as good as things have got after seven events.
There is no doubting the F14T is a flawed piece of machinery, with just one podium courtesy of Alonso’s third place at China – this coming days after team principal Stefano Domenicali fell on his sword, to display for the immensely proud outfit.
Yet the Spaniard has regularly come home in the top six, and sits fourth in the standings notwithstanding his struggles.
Promising signs early at Monaco aside, where he ran as high as third until a puncture cruelled his charge, Räikkönen has endured an anonymous campaign.
What is it then, which has left the Iceman wanting?
It would be easy to nominate the new environment which accompanies a change of outfit, but then, it is hard to say that when he’d previously been there for three seasons, with a lot of personnel intact.
That Alonso moulded the team around his desires upon arrival in 2010, leaving little room for those not party to the regime, could be offered. But Räikkönen is a unique individual, he doesn’t acquiesce to the norm, it’s never been in his nature, and Ferrari knew this, so this theory is nullified.
His fury following the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was switched to a three-stop strategy, enabling Alonso to gain position, is proof that he isn’t content with being an admirable number-two driver.
It was a result of the strained relations between the Spaniard and president Luca di Montezemolo last season – borne from frustration at a prolonged string of title near-misses and descent towards mediocrity, which served as the primary catalyst in Räikkönen’s return.
His appointment was as much to remind Alonso who was running the show, as it was in hiring a driver of the Finn’s calibre. When one recalls di Montezemolo’s “two roosters in the one henhouse” philosophy, this mindset was forgotten once the Italian decided Alonso – with all of his samurai preaching tweets, was growing bigger than the team.
Back to Räikkönen, and he puts his meagre return to date down to sheer misfortune.
It is apparent that Räikkönen has struggled with the handling of the F14T, as evidenced by his uncharacteristic spin at Canada. Perhaps it is the case that the Finn simply doesn’t suit the nuances posed by the turbo-era cars and is still adapting. Even Sebastian Vettel has documented his struggles with the new style, and his car is infinitely more competitive than the Ferrari.
Whilst top five and occasional podium appearances from the Finn would be expected as the season progresses, not least at circuits he excels at – Spa and Suzuka coming straight to mind, barring some catastrophe where he falls even further down the field, he has to be given the benefit of the doubt for the balance of the campaign given the limited package at his disposal.
If the form witnessed so far were to continue into the early stages of 2015, then would be the time to ask serious questions.
You don’t win 20 Grands Prix and a World Championship without possessing something extra.
With a solid but by no means world beating Lotus, he enjoyed victories, regular podiums and top-three finishes in the standings (he was placed third when pulled the pin on his 2013 campaign to undergo back surgery, having not been paid for some time).
The fact remains that Räikkönen is the last Ferrari driver to claim a title, something which must rankle with Alonso, try as he might to deliver.
If the right elements fall into place, there’s no doubting that Räikkönen can again be a winner, and hopefully something more, we just need to be patient.