Ferrari finally has two genuine championship contenders in Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. For the first time in a decade and little more, there is an air of suspense if either or both of the drivers will come good during the season and clinch the coveted silver bucket…erm…sorry, championship trophy. This is different from earlier years when Michael Schumacher pretty much killed all the suspense, leaving the paddock in dull resignation that if one gave Michael half a decent car the other teams were in for the fight of their lives. Not that that is a bad thing in itself, but when you have arguably the best darned racing driver of all time driving one of your cars, how do you find him a competitive teammate? You don’t – you just put all your eggs in one basket and wait for Michael to bring the trophy home – which he almost invariably did.

kimi.jpgIf you thought Kimi Raikkonen signed up with Ferrari in 2005 just to get a free 599 GTB Fiorano, well…you couldn’t be more mistaken (we hope). We have it on good authority that Kimi fully intends to give the WDC thingie a shot, just to find out what all the hype is about. Kimi can be blindingly fast (Spa 2004), very consistent (2003 season) and can produce some stunning drives (Suzuka 2005). It is well known how Michael stayed back during a practice session in 2001 just to watch Kimi and later famously proclaimed to Montezemolo that he had just seen the next world champion – and it is not like Michael to be talking through his hat about such things (again we hope). Kimi may have his detractors, he may not be the best at nursing his car to the finish line (given his tendency to drive like there is no tomorrow), his mechanical sympathy and car development abilities might be suspect, but there is no doubt that given a very good car, he will be a potential candidate for the throne. If Ferrari can keep him off the vodka bottles that is.

massa.jpgAs for Felipe Massa, Ferrari might have just struck gold when they weren’t even digging for it. They were looking for the ‘other’ driver when they signed Felipe in 2006, and now in 2007, Kimi is having his hands full trying to keep up with Massa’s pace. The young Brazilian has displayed an exponential rate of improvement, winning two races in 2006 (with Schumi and Alonso on the podium in Turkey 2006 – it can’t get better than that). He is fast no doubt, but can he be consistent? And last time we saw, his wet weather skills were unfortunately roughly like DC’s – would that play a significant factor?

The car has looked very competitive indeed, and so reliable that even Kimi has not been able to break it too many times (just kidding of course). All that remains is to wait for the season to start…and to keep our fingers crossed.