A Finn For A Finn

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Williams and Valtteri Bottas are quiet in the face of mounting speculation about the Finn’s Formula One future.

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported this week that Ferrari is offering Williams almost $4.5 million to buy Bottas out of his 2016 contract with the British team.

Contacted by Brazil’s Globo, Grove-based Williams said it “never” comments on the contractual situation of its drivers, and therefore will not comment on the Bild story.

And Bottas himself told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat as he tested in Austria on Wednesday, “There are always a lot of rumors in F1. Nothing has changed for me. I am concentrating on this season, which is the best thing for me and the team.

“We will know later on what will happen,” the 25-year-old added.

-Autoweek-

I feel I have used this saying before, many times before – well me and just about everyone one else on this planet – so forgive me, I am about to use it again: Oh what a difference a year makes. Or in the case of Kimi Raikkonen, oh what a difference a year makes, and oh what a difference four races can make.

Just a year ago, the Iceman was getting his clocked cleaned by then-teammate Fernando Alonso. Not to mention crashing out on more than one occasion. Then 2015 happened, the new James Allison Ferrari came on line with a front end Kimi could understand, and voila! the Iceman had cometh…back.

I for one was really hoping this year the Finn would mount a serious challenge to his friend outside the F1 circus, Sebastian Vettel – the one he says he’s crushed in badminton “every time.” This has just not happened at all, not in the least, nope and negitivo.

Inconsistency in qualifying and bad luck has been the story for the Finn since the season began. A spin in Canada while running in a genuine third position that allowed the Williams of Valtteri Bottas to slip by and ruin Ferrari’s streak of reaching the podium each and every race thus far left no one amused in Maranello. Note: teammate Vettel was left mired in the pack due to a gearbox change, and ended up off the podium as well.

And with F1 being F1, this immediately set in motion speculation from the press asking all kinds of ridiculous questions about cuts in pay, and when a re-signing of Raikkonen to a further contract for Maranello might happen.

Maurizio Arrivabene made very well-crafted statements to the press about the Finn: what he needed to do, that Ferrari wants to continue with the driver line-up it currently has but that nothing was set, and at the end of the day it is the results that matter, blah, blah, blah. Well duh. How’s this for subtext: Kimi, get it together or you’re not going to be driving a red car next year.

Arrivabene goes on to say:

“I’m not gong to tell you when the deadline is but it’s an overall view that is conducting our decision…I am talking about performance. Performance means a kind of holistic approach. How is the feeling with the engineers, how is the working with the engineers, getting points, podiums, how quick?… many, many things.”

I like the word “holistic,” but it does not get anymore subtext-ty than that. Sergio Marchionne, the Finn’s bosses’ boss, had this to say to the Italian Sports media outlet Corriere della Sera:

“His [Raikkonen’s] future depends on him – he must decide whether he brings the results or whether he gives up.”

How’s that for absolutely no subtext?

Remember this is a driver Ferrari elected not to retain while driving next to Felipe Massa, in addition to which, he was basically paid not to drive a red car and to make room for Alonso. Where is the loyalty I ask you? Not that I think Kimi cares all that much; in that respect he truly is the Iceman, a real cool customer.

Now he is back for a second year in the red overalls and, while his driving was abysmal last year, he effectively got a pass due to the non-competitiveness of the car Ferrari supplied. It seemed all was forgiven, especially after the stellar drive to displace Nico Rosberg in Bahrain, never mind the W06 had brake issues.

But while it seems Raikkonen has found his old self in regards to getting the car around the track in a very quick way again, it also seems he has just not been able to put an entire weekend together in the way that has come so easily to Vettel, which these days is what it is all about in this very complicated era of F1.

So off to Austria, with Raikkonen looking to rebound from Canada, but his pace Friday and Saturday was just not there: FP1 eleventh, FP2 eleventh and FP3 ninth. And as (bad) luck would have it, qualifying did not go so well either, with a huge mistake resulting in the Finn out in Q1. However, as you all well know, it is about to get worse; disaster is about to strike.

On the very first lap shortly after the start, it would appear Raikkonen lost the backend (a nice way of saying spin) and collected the McLaren of Alonso who was trying to pass on the outside (don’t get me started on that one, thank you very much), resulting in exit stage-left for both drivers. This, coupled with Vettel’s long pitstop, equals Ferrari not having a very good race in the picturesque hills of Spielberg and podium-less for a second time this season.

Vettel, however, is not the one who is under pressure from his employer and the F1 press. The four times WDC is still in the honeymoon phase of being Ferrari’s new chosen one.

It is his teammate that is now feeling the heat. So much so, that David Coulthard, driver turned pundit, is chiming in:

“The facts are that whether it’s bad luck or something else, he hasn’t delivered in the last couple of years at the level he did in his previous career.”

Now the new rumors are that Ferrari wants to promote Bottas (that other Finn) to a seat in one of its red cars a year early, and it ain’t in Seb’s car now is it? One rumor is Ferrari is willing to pay (when are they not) Bottas’s retainer and I am sure much more to Williams and do a deal.

Nothing concrete as of yet, but we all know how rumors in F1 are just the first sign of what will soon to be truth when it comes to things such as driver whereabouts. Think Alonso, think Vettel, and, just for the sake of irony, think all the way back to Raikkonen displacing one M. Schumacher that began as a li’l ol’ rumor…

I think right about here it would be worth mentioning that back in 2007, the year Raikkonen became world champion, it could be argued or at least considered that his title might not necessarily be purely the result of his driving ability or Ferrari’s overall performance, but more a combination of opportunistic circumstances, as regards inter-team dramas taking place between Lewis Hamilton, Alonso and McLaren’s management.

This in no way is meant to diminish Raikkonen’s WDC status or his natural talent in racing’s most premier formula. Kimi is super-fast, and produced some spectacular drives and deserved his title no questions asked. However, as I have too-many-times-to-count reminded anyone who will listen, it is not just about being fast.

At some point one has to wonder if Raikkonen is prone to just making too many mistakes, has lost a bit of focus, or, unlike Vettel and Alonso, just does not quite take it as seriously at his peers. After all, has Alonso or Vettel wanted to go rallying or drive trucks round in a circle in America?

Going back a bit further, while he was at McLaren I read several accounts of team members complaining how hard the Finn was on the car. How Raikkonen would literally break components which should have never been broken.

In fact, looking to the year-long battle with Alonso, there were more than a few retirements that maybe could have been avoided and that keep Kimi from consolidating race wins and sewing up the championship for himself and Woking. The McLaren chassis was clearly faster than Alonso’s Renault and, on paper, should have taken the title that year. You might say and I would agree the McLaren could have been a bit fragile, but did Kimi exacerbate the issue?

To what degree this was the case is just speculation, but I am starting to see a pattern in Raikkonen: very fast but at times reckless – and the one thing you can’t be in F1 today is anything but inch perfect all the time at every track on every lap. This is simply the case now in a sport where the tolerance for errors has become extremely small, and the penalties one pays are too big.

Results don’t always give the complete picture. We all know there is an ebb and flow to a driver’s results, and that those results are inextricably tied to hundreds of different things: a chassis good and bad, team personnel, what other drivers are doing on track, the hugely complex software that run a modern day F1 car, weather, and just plain luck, but then again they kind of do. Here is the points tally so far through round eight.

Sebastian Vettel – 120 points
Kimi Raikkonen – 72 points

Extrapolate this out in the second half of the season and the numbers look like this: SV 240, and KR 150. That is almost a 100 point difference. That is not as bad as the chasm between Alonso and Massa while they were are Ferrari, but it is still significant.

So what has happened to Ferrari’s last world champion? What are your thoughts? Am I out of line here? Are any of you also seeing what I’m seeing? Or will this be a case of a first half of the season to forget, and the second half to remember for the Iceman.

The Grand Prix of England is this Sunday (which by the way last year Raikkonen crashed out of on the first lap), and while all the teams and their drivers will be scrutinized heavily by the media and the fans alike, my guess is that quite a bit more attention will be paid to Raikkonen and how he approaches this weekend – more importantly, to what result he can bring home when all is said and done Sunday afternoon.

Going back to DC, “The question is, is Raikkonen better value for the money Ferrari than say [Nico] Hulkenberg or a Bottas? One of these younger guys on the rise.”

That is the question indeed. That is the question indeed…

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peri raviteja

This is my personal view. just because he is under pressure and results are not showing up, everyone is raising there voices(ex:d.c who got raped by kimi). Coming to kimi performance. he was out in 2010 and returned in 2012 with lotus for 2 seasons. how did he perform so well in lotus then? did he lose the speed? definetely no. Coming to 2014 ferrari, that car was setup for alonso driving which was different to kimi’s . this year he did perform well when compared to last year. quali was bad i agree. But the main thing that ferrari… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

Let’s be perfectly clear: Raikkonen is, as they say in the US military, a :”goldbricker”, someone who is lazy and doesn’t give a rip if he lives or dies the next day. People like them become disciplinary issues, because they don’t care at all, and that can destroy a team just as easily as the guy who gets a DUI; it reflects badly on the team as a whole. The sooner you get that straightened out, the better, and it may come to a point where you just simply have to cut ties. Fortunately, for Ferrari, there are at least… Read more »

Junipero Mariano

I’ll take that Finn and raise you a Finbarrrrrr….

jakobusvdl

LOL ;-)

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