Frantic F1~ The real Kimi Raikkonen


Frantic F1. Would the real Kimi Raikkonen please come to collect your car. We need you!
Oh Kimi Kimi Kimi, where art thou Kimi? Or words to that effect. Lets face it, so far Kimi’s time at Ferrari has been… disappointing. What?! I hear you cry, are you mad? Wait until I see you, how dare you say that? (Post all hate mail below, or send to But this weekend at Valencia the pressure is not on Luca Badoer — its on Kimi.
Maybe it was better is Schumi’s neck did work.
This weekend all the pressure is on Kimi. For Luca, just finishing eighth would be a major success, opening his points tally in F1. Meanwhile, Kimi is holding all of the Ferrari honour. Ferrari have put new parts on the car and need some good results to salvage the season and if — whisper this part — Luca beats him this weekend then Kimi’s reputation will take a battering. It’s one thing being beaten by a 7 time champion, but quite another to be beaten by a guy who hasn’t raced in 10 years. Let’s not forget that there is a question over Ferrari’s choice in Luca, he wasn’t the teams first call and many are surprised that Marc Gene didn’t get the drive. Luca has never been Ferrari’s first choice in fact in 1999 the team chose Mika Salo out of nowhere rather than going to their trusty test driver. So if Luca starts beating Kimi? Well Ferrari might have saved themselves several million…
Mixed Results.
On that day in Monza 2006 when Schumacher announced his retirement and Kimi was confirmed by Ferrari to replace him the excitement was apparent. Here was a driver coming to the team that had just missed out on the titles in 03 and 05 and was now joining McLaren’s main rivals. It started out brilliantly in Australia with pole, win, and fastest lap and then — well, it was a mixed bag. Massa who was in the team according to some experts because “Ferrari was left with no one else” showed that he was worth the seat at Ferrari winning races outright and beating Raikkonen on the track. At this time though it was fair to point out that the 07 control tyre caught out teams and drivers alike. Alonso who took Raikkonen’s place at McLaren had the same problem with the Bridgestones. It was around the time of Indianapolis when Kimi finally got on top of his tyre woe, and the luck went with him for once. Then he began to look like the leader that Ferrari wanted. Kimi made one of the greatest comebacks by slashing a 19 point lead in two races to steal the title. Yet 2007 was not a year that will be remembered for a great driver’s battle. The year had been tainted by the Spy Saga between McLaren and Ferrari then on top of that was Mclaren seemingly self-destructing as the Hamilton vs Alonso battle no doubt cost the team vital points (see Hungary pit lane-gate) and destabilised the team enough that you can argue whether it was a case of McLaren loosing the title or Ferrari winning it.
That was 2007, and for 08 Kimi talked about it being “his time” and creating a new Ferrari era, an era that would draw comparisons to the domination between 00-04 perhaps? After all, Kimi had now spent a year at Ferrari, he’d gotten used to the team and more importantly the tyres, and seemingly had his team mate in a “Barrichello” style role. Massa had to prove that he was a title contender not another No.2 Ferrari driver. Australia was a total disaster for Ferrari, Massa and Raikkonen made enough mistakes in one race to fill the whole season and Raikkonen put it right in Malaysia winning in dominant style as Massa threw away what would turn out to be a crucial 2nd place come season’s end. Raikkonen began to get some momentum dominating in Spain and setting himself up nicely for the rest of the season. If you had told someone then that Kimi would not win again in 08, and that almost a year and a half later he still would not have returned to the top step, then you would have probably been laughed out of the room.
After that it seemed the Kimi curse that had cost him wins in the Mclaren days returned. Kimi was closing on Hamilton in Canada and had jumped him in the stops when the bizarre incident when Hamilton smashed into the back of him at the red light took them both out. Then, whilst the French GP win seemed a formality part of his exhaust decided that wasn’t going to be the case. He finished 2nd loosing out to his team mate who by now was creating his own momentum for the title. Kimi’s challenge came to an end ironically at Spa, whilst the whole world was looking at the “Chicane-gate” scandal Kimi who the previous year had got an important win at Spa the track he loved and most people felt suited him being one of the best driver circuits on the calendar had spun out on the damp track fighting with Hamilton and worse still, Massa inherited the all important win and 10 points. Kimi found himself in the unfamiliar role of being the one  having to move over for his team mate in China to gift him 2 extra points.But strangely a lot of the time Kimi was stuck in the lower end of the points. Podiums looked unlikely — let alone wins.
What is going on?
Kimi’s 08 problems were very strange. It was apparent the F2008 had problems getting heat into its tyres. It effected Kimi more than Massa and with Kimi qualifying around the 3rd or 4th row he found himself stuck behind slower cars and with to much work to do in the race by the time he had jumped them in the first stops. Yet even that still does not explain all of it. By the end of the season it was common to see Raikkonen set the fastest lap with a few laps left in the race and be the quickest car in the field. Not exactly what you expect from someone who is having troubles with a car to suddenly be so quick. It is also more of a confusion that Kimi seemed to go backwards in getting the best out of the tyres and he seemed unable to adapt his driving style. It would be understandable if the car was a dog but this car was winning races in Massa’s hands. It also seemed that the fire in the Iceman had gone out as he gave the impression he just was not trying. In an effort to get on top of these problems an intensive winter test programme was set out. The 2009 car would solve all that.
If 2008 was bad…
A mixture of developing the 08 car all year, going up the wrong development path with KERS whilst other teams found extra pace with aerodynamics and in the diffuser area, meant that the F60 was not going to carry on its title-winning ways of the past few years. Whatever the issues of the F60, the fact remained that Massa was still considered to have the upper hand over Raikkonen and once again you still got the impression that Kimi wasn’t trying. Turkey saw Massa get points whilst Kimi just seemed to fall back, and with fuel playing a massive role under the knock-out qualifying we have now Massa — who had gone out in Q2 — able to hands down beat Kimi thanks to a superior pit strategy. Ferrari recording its worst start to a season since 1980 means the team is never going to win a world title, but the driver should be pushing no matter what, and you still get the impression Kimi isn’t the Kimi we used to know.
Is that fair?
Maybe it isn’t. But from Kimi’s time at Ferrari you struggle to think of performances which you can put on the same level as keeping his foot flat in Spa in 2002 when driving through a track covered in blown engine smoke, or winning Suzuka on the last lap after driving from the back of the grid. Yes, there have been strong drives, like the classic pole, win, fastest lap — but never magical Kimi drives at Ferrari. The type you still talk about years after they have left the sport. That pass Hakkinen made on Schumacher at Spa 00 that drive Schumacher did in Hungary 98, Mansell British GP 87 the list goes on. Whilst Kimi has won races the magic that was expected hasn’t been there.You also have to ask if his heart is in F1 anymore, with the WRC drives you get the feeling he is not looking at F1 in the same light as a few years ago. Of course, Kimi has that “do not care” persona going, but its odd that whilst we accept that he was still put down for not opening up enough. Now I’m not on about Schumacher refusing to admit fault for parking it at Monaco or for Jerez 97 (for the record he did confess to Jerez later on, but at the time he refused to admit fault) — I am on about the link to the fans.

Kimi gets away with this because of his cheeky of the wall comments, like his “I was having a ****” answer on live TV when asked where he was during Schumi’s leaving presentation. Or boat racing in gorilla suites or falling off boats whilst drunk has given him a rebel reputation that people like. The thing is, he needs to make us feel like we’re still watching the Kimi that was a demon on the track. Right now he isn’t — you feel something is missing. He is not delivering the performances people know he is capable of. Bad car or not, there is no fighter quality in him right now.
The Future?
If the rumours are true then Ferrari may feel the same way. There’s talk of Kimi being paid off and being replaced by Alonso, who has been heading to Ferrari since he was born. Possibly before that if you believe the rumours. Kimi has also been linked to other teams in F1, if he doesn’t end up in the WRC. But if he joins any other team in F1 will they allow him the freedom he has at Ferrari? Once I wrote about how the control he was under at “corporate McLaren” compared to how he was now free to go out and be himself at Ferrari was a great advantage for him. Can you really see any team allowing that? Certainty no team that has a seat for 2010. I doubt Sir Frank or Patrick Head would be happy to put up with it.
Right now Kimi has to lead the Ferrari team and get some solid points to get 3rd in the constructors title. Now that isn’t as exciting as fighting for 1st, but there’s stiff competition right now: Mclaren is now getting on top of its problems, Brawn and Red Bull will be taking points away, Williams are also close, and Toyotas performances — whilst erratic — could also take points away from the Scuderia. The fight for third will be as hard if not harder right now than the fight for first. After Hungary the Ferrari appeared much improved and Kimi drove superbly for 2nd. But is Kimi back? And can he put a stop to the doubters who say he is at the end of his career? This is Kimi’s chance to rebuild his reputation and salvage what is turning out to be a very bad year for Ferrari. Kimi; your team needs you! 

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