Is Raikkonen worth the risk?
Kimi Raikkonen's return to Formula 1 next season creates a field with as much depth of talent as any in the history of the sport.
Six world champions will be on the grid at the start of 2012, with a total of 14 titles between them.
But while Raikkonen's return will add another fascinating thread to an already rich tapestry, will Lotus get the driver they think they are getting?
Kimi Raikkonen left Ferarri and Formula One in 2009 to pursue a career in the World Rally Championship. PHOTO: Getty
There is no doubt that Raikkonen at his best would be a powerful addition to almost any F1 team, but can the 32-year-old reach again the sort of heights that led to victories such as that at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2005, when the Finn claimed victory for McLaren in arguably the greatest race in Formula 1 history?
Having battled up through the field from 17th on the grid, Raikkonen won with a stunningly audacious move at the start of the final lap, overtaking Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella around the outside at 160mph going into the first corner.
Although Raikkonen would go on to win the world title in 2007, the race in Japan was in many ways the pinnacle of his career. He was certainly never as consistently great again as he had been in 2005.
By the end of the 2005 season, it was widely known Raikkonen had signed a contract to move to Ferrari in 2007 as a replacement for Michael Schumacher.
Raikkonen was expected to take over the role of team leader, with Felipe Massa a dutiful number two, but the Finn's performance fell short of what was expected.
His low-key personality was always going to make it difficult to dominate a team in the way Schumacher did - or Fernando Alonso has done at Ferrari in the last two years - but more of a surprise was Massa's ability to match him on the track.
Raikkonen did take the title in his first year at Ferrari - but it was a somewhat fluky win.
Firstly, title rivals McLaren went into meltdown after the partnership between Alonso and rising star Lewis Hamilton soured.
Secondly, Ferrari engineered the victory Raikkonen needed in the decisive final race in Brazil by swapping positions on the track with Massa, who was dominating.
Having won the title, many thought Raikkonen might step up a level in 2008, but Massa became the de facto team leader. This was not what Ferrari expected of Raikkonen, whom they paid a reputed $50m a year, the highest salary in the history of F1.
Midway through 2009, they'd had enough and decided to terminate his contract a year before it ran out. After paying Raikkonen at least a full year's retainer not to drive for them in 2010, Ferrari took on Alonso in his place, despite not knowing whether Massa would make a full recovery from an accident in Hungary that left him with a fractured skull and forced him to miss the rest of the season.
The difference between the relative performances of Alonso and Raikkonen at Ferrari could barely be more stark. Whereas Raikkonen had been evenly matched with Massa, Alonso has destroyed the Brazilian in the last two seasons.
So many questions arise from this comparison.
Was Raikkonen never as good as some thought he was and Alonso simply in a different league? Has Massa been affected by his accident in 2009 in a way neither he nor Ferrari are either aware of or will admit?
Was Raikkonen increasingly demotivated at Ferrari and therefore performing under-par? Was his legendary 'partying' affecting his driving? (There is a famous YouTube film of him falling off the roof of a boat with a drink in his hand and landing on the deck on his head)
Has Massa been unable to cope alongside the dominant personality of Alonso, but was able to give his best alongside Raikkonen, a man who paid no attention to 'working the team' and simply believed his job was to get in the car and drive?
So damaged had Raikkonen's reputation been by events at Ferrari in the last five years that any return to F1, after a humbling couple of years in world rallying, was never going to be with a top team.
There are too many other good drivers out there, without Raikkonen's baggage, for that to happen. So Raikkonen finds himself in a midfield team struggling to rebuild itself and a long way from finding the form that took Alonso to his two titles in 2005-6.
In theory, Raikkonen could be just what Lotus need. If he returns fully committed, as he says he will, with a raised tolerance of all the things he grew to detest about F1 - the media and PR work - he could be a valuable addition.
But will that motivation remain once the reality of midfield life hits him, when he realises just how much of a struggle he is in for, how far away he is from the top teams where he used to reside?
And will he really help the team progress? On that subject, there's a joke doing the rounds. It's set in the Lotus engineering office at a race some time in 2012. It goes like this: "How was the car, Kimi?" "Good." "How was the car, Vitaly [Petrov]?" "Good." "OK. Debrief over."
On the other hand, put yourself in the shoes of Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez and team boss Eric Boullier. Robert Kubica, who any team would want if he was fit, is still months away from being able to drive an F1 car again - and may never be able to do so.
Having ruled out Rubens Barrichello because there are too many questions about his age - he is now 39 - and motivation, your driver choices are Petrov, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean. Good, solid drivers all - and Senna, particularly, has shown these last few races that he has potential.
But then you remember Suzuka 2005 and other great drives. You remember Raikkonen's championship challenges in 2003 and 2005; his clinical, error-free consistency; how he was always at his best on the great 'drivers' circuits'; the way he grabbed victory by the throat in Belgium in 2009, the only race that year where Ferrari had any chance of a win.
You remember that great drivers just make things happen and you think what Raikkonen could do in your car, how much of a difference he could make.
Then it becomes easier to see why you might take the risk.