Raikkonen: Never giving up

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The world is rife with Kimi Raikkonen fans and why not? He is an amazing study in character. Cool, aloof, blindingly fast and when reduced to basics, he is an enigma of sorts. His insouciant approach has often been chided in F1 circles but he has always had the results to back up his disengaged and almost distracted approach. Until now that is.

Kimi was quoted this week as saying:

“Obviously that wasn’t the result we were looking for at Spa, but it was great to be back to fight for the title,” said Raikkonen. “Finally I had the right feeling with the car and the Spa circuit is just the most beautiful track for a Formula One race.

“I had just one goal when I came to Belgium: victory. I just wanted to win the race, anything else would not have been enough for me, also because it meant that my competitors could have widened the gap.

“There’s no point in complaining now. I did my very best, but it wasn’t enough. These things happen. It’s the same in ice hockey or in motocross: you give and you take, but you never give up.

“I’m not worried about what happened and I won’t give up: I’ll fight right until the end. The points will be counted at the end of the season: there are still five races to go. My actual position is not ideal, but as I’ve said many times I’m not someone who gives up easily.”

“We had a very productive test session on this track before Spa,” he added. “I think that the F2008 can be really competitive: after the qualifying we’ll see if it was enough.

“We’ll give it all to win, for the team and for the fans. This is Ferrari’s home race and it would be fantastic to win the Italian GP for the first time. I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’ll give it all, going flat out. “

I in no way want to marginalize Felipe Massa. He’s been a bit of a revelation this year with great results and speed. But if Felipe is a benchmark then where is Kimi Raikkonen? Kimi is a superior driver to Felipe. I’ll go ahead and say it. Would anyone have argued stringently that Felipe was in the same league as Kimi over the last four years?

As it is, Felipe is leading Ferrari’s challenge and there is no doubt, in my mind, that Kimi is perhaps disenchanted with either F1 or Ferrari. Martin Whitmarsh said something very similar about Kimi’s tenure at McLaren. They expected a lot from Kimi and unfortunately they would sometimes get it. Perhaps Ferrari thought they were getting the best driver in F1 and McLaren knew they were losing a driver who, when on his game, was the best but finding that game was often a real challenge.

Felipe leads in qualifying, race results and points. It is challenging for me to understand just how this is the case because by all rights, Kimi should be leading the entire series. He’s that talented, he’s that quick and he’s that brilliantly calm. Perhaps the year 2008 is the denouement of Kimi’s career. I have watched every race of this mans career and to be honest, the skill was always there but perhaps the drive has never been there or at least only occasionally. In retrospect, Ron Dennis should have taken the option on Nick Heidfeld when both drivers were at Sauber with McLaren contracts. Nick had the talent and I suggest that Nick probably had the drive as well.

All that is for naught as Ron Dennis and company have Lewis Hamilton. Here is a young man who has the talent and the drive to be a world champion…multiple times. It has been said that you are not a champion unless you defend your title and unless Kimi lives up to his reputation and words; we may be seeing an enigma enter F1, win a trophy and leave it with a whimper and not a shout. Let us hope not.

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