Coming out of retirement seems to be fashionable in Formula 1 at the moment. Michael Schumacher seems to have started a trend, and the hordes are following.
Pedro de la Rosa is set to make yet another return to racing. He has been McLaren’s test driver for many years, and is apparently extremely good at that job, but he has never excelled in a race seat. He made a comeback in 2010 with Sauber, and was replaced mid-way through the season by Nick Heidfeld because he was not quick enough. It has now been announced that he will race for HRT in 2012, which is hardly a step forward for any driver, given HRT’s abysmal first 2 seasons.
The big story at the moment, however, is the possible return of Kimi Räikkönen. The 2007 World Champion was bought out of his Ferrari contract at the end of 2009, and has spent 2 seasons rallying, albeit not very successfully. It now seems that he may make a comeback to Formula 1 with Williams.
While Räikkönen is a supremely talented driver and is still arguably at the top of his game, his choice of team should cause a few raised eyebrows. Williams have been in steady decline for a few seasons, and 2011 is possibly their worst season in what is otherwise a glittering history. Why would a man of Räikkönen’s talent and achievements want to return with a team that currently makes up the numbers?
Schumacher’s comeback should be a lesson for Räikkönen. The most successful driver in Formula 1 history has returned to racing with a high-profile team, and he has struggled. The car has admittedly not been ideal, but Schumacher has not taken the world by storm. Does Räikkönen expect to find his form again instantly? If so, he is likely to be unpleasantly surprised.
It makes no sense for Kimi Räikkönen to return with a mid-field (at best currently) team. If he does so, he is setting himself up for a very difficult 2012.
In fairness to Kimi and Williams, if it works out sucessfully, it will be a fantastic story for Formula 1. Let’s hope.