Australian Formula One World Champion, Alan Jones, says Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the sport in 2012 has been one of the most successful comebacks in F1 history.
Raikkonen, the 2007 World Champion, quit Ferrari after the 2009 season to compete in the World Rally Championship. The Finn returned to the sport with Lotus this year to finish third in the World Championship, winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Mark Webber.
Speaking exclusively to the Australian Grand Prix ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, Jones admitted he didn’t see Raikkonen’s successful return coming.
“I think he’s surprised a lot of people, myself included,” he said.
“When he left Ferrari and went rallying, he spent more time in the paddock than on the bitumen, but he’s come back to Formula One and he’s done extremely well. It’s probably one of the most successful comebacks next to someone like (Niki) Lauda.”
Lauda, a three-time world champion, returned to the sport in 1982 after a two-year hiatus and went on to win the 1984 title with McLaren.
Last weekend’s final race of the 2012 season in Brazil marked the end of Michael Schumacher’s second stint in Formula One and, while his three-year comeback with Mercedes failed to reach the heights of his first career with Benetton and Ferrari, Jones said Schumacher shouldn’t be criticised for his decision to return.
“People say to me that he shouldn’t have come back, but at the end of the day there’s only one person who decides whether he should come back or not, and that’s Michael,” he said.
“We shouldn’t forget that he raced motorbikes for a while (in his first retirement), so he’s obviously still had the need for speed. If he had the opportunity to come back to top-flight Formula One, then good on him – you do it for yourself, not for anyone else.”
In an interview for the ‘Keeping Track’ post-season review, Jones offered his views on Webber’s 2012 campaign, speculated on the future of compatriot Daniel Ricciardo, and discussed how the Australian Grand Prix is perceived internationally.