Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa disagree on traction control

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008 launch, 2008 | Ferrari mediaWhen I read Kimi Raikkonen’s response at the 2008 Ferrari launch on Sunday to a question about whether banning traction control will make F1 less safe I was delighted to see he’d offered an opinion about it.

And when I realised what he said went completely against team mate Felipe Massa’s feelings I was even more intrigued. Here’s what Raikkonen had to say:

The sport is dangerous anyway. It doesn’t matter if you have traction control or not. If you think it is too dangerous you probably shouldn’t be in the sport. It is more tricky for sure, you need to be awake more of the time.

That’s a pretty direct response from someone who rarely says much at all at press conferences. Read those words again, “If you think it is too dangerous you probably shouldn’t be in the sport,” and then look what Massa had to say about the traction control ban in November:

From a safety point of view, these limitations in the use of electronics look like a step backwards to me: in the event of wet races we?ll have a lot more accidents.

This is quite curious. F1 drivers can be reluctant to offer opinions, preferring not to rock the boat and hide behind bland public relations-approved quotes.

But I think the traction control debate has touched a nerve and just as some of them feel passionately that the traction control ban is a threat to safety, so others feel that the ban is good for the sport and that F1 has to be dangerous up to a point.

My heart agrees with Raikkonen, but I know in my head that I have no frame of reference for what it is like to drive an F1 car at 200mph down the main straight at Fuji in pouring rain and blinding spray. I think it is up to the drivers to make the call on this one.

And I can’t help but wonder if Raikkonen’s choice of words hint at a certain disrespect for his team mate’s abilities. After all, Massa has not been the most impressive of drivers in the wet.

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37 comments on “Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa disagree on traction control”

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  1. Go Kimi!!
    If they cannot drive in the wet stay home.
    I cannot stay home when it rains, i have to go to work. With the money F1 drivers get paid it is pathetic to complain about less than perfect conditions.
    They could also let me drive their car in the wet and get showed up by a 50 year old.

  2. I agree with you Keith, this could be the mind games kicking in, only 7 days into the new year. It the make or break year for Massa, if he can’t beat Kimi this year, he will be another Reubens offering fine support but never a champion in his own right.

  3. TC ban will do its bit to seperate the top drivers from the decent ones… Massa has a bit more to do to prove he is in the former group… Who knows maybe the TC ban is what helps him… All in all hopefully things are going to get exciting thanks to it.

  4. I can see the TC ban slowing down drivers mentally!

    It will 100% be a make or break year for some.

  5. I completely agree with Paul.

  6. The main problem with Massa has always been that he’s poor at overtaking. He can defend well, but he never seems keen to initiate manouvers. Obviously overtaking is pretty difficult in F1 overall, but that’s my read of Massa.

  7. “If they cannot drive in the wet stay home.
    I cannot stay home when it rains, i have to go to work.”

    Are you driving at 200 mph down the motorway in a single-seater on the ragged edge of performance and grip? With all due respect, that’s a pretty lame argument.

    “With the money F1 drivers get paid it is pathetic to complain about less than perfect conditions.”

    This is the argument Jackie Stewart enountered when he tried to stop folk getting killed so regularly and actually bother to provide some decent medial facilities. Just because they get paid a lot doesn’t mean they should accept whatever risk we have little everyday experience of.

    Look, I’m not saying the drivers are right or wrong on the TC ban in the wet. I think Keith is spot on when he says “I have no frame of reference for what it is like to drive an F1 car at 200mph down the main straight at Fuji in pouring rain and blinding spray. I think it is up to the drivers to make the call on this one.”

    Very easy to be an armchair critic.

  8. Kimi’s words are open to a lot of (mis)interpretations, unfortunately. When he says, “If you think it is too dangerous you probably shouldn’t be in the sport”, he probably isn’t trying to offend anyone. He merely tries to tell that whatever it is, they’ve to try and adapt to it. The problem here is his word usage is not sufficient.

  9. “It is more tricky for sure, you need to be awake more of the time.” – Good advice from Kimi, I hope he takes after it himself.

    I’m not sure I agree that Kimi’s words were, directly, a swipe at Massa’s abilities or opinion. I think he would’ve said the things he said anyway despite whatever Massa said a couple of months ago – if indeed he remembers.

    Everyone’s made a fair point so far in regard to this, however I do see this as a bit of a preemptive excuse from Massa.

    In the end, I guess all drivers are speculating what will/wont happen and they would be the most qualified to do so.

    I do personally think that those who are clearly confident in their abilities, or don’t care and just get on with it, are those who are able to rise up to any challenge the rule book throws at them.

    Could the FIA be held responsible if a death is proven to be, directly or indirectly, caused by a recent rule change? If so, then I seriously doubt the FIA would’ve taken the gamble.

  10. They’ve never been prosecuted before, I would imagine they have all kinds of strongly-worded disclaimers. The Italian authorities tried to prosecute several Williams team members and the Imola circuit owner Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994, but were not successful.

  11. kudos to you Keith for stating the fact we have no frame of reference.

    I think you spoted something. I saw a Stirling moss interview he did some years ago and he was asked about the safety now in F1.

    SM had nothing against that but said as far as he was concerned the joy of driving F1 was the danger.

    The speeds were far less than today but if he missed something he was dead.

    I think maybe today a shift happened. F1 car are harder to drive (require more precise skills) , you have to be very fit to do so, especially mentally so maybe now, F1 is more a “sport” when before it was more of “challenge”, a way of life.

    By the way, i think it is quite obvious the TC ban will make things more dangerous, but it is a question of probabilities…

    We can’t really judge the consequences as all is done with probabilities.

    For example, today pilots love the high speed corners of F1 (look at the recent Mclaren interview of the 4 pilots, when asked their favorite corner, they all answer a high speed one), but if one day one pilot died following a high speed crash, i think the mentality toward high speed corner would change.
    Thus, we can’t say cornering speed of F1 vs the safety is today sufficient. We can only say, that as of today no one died from it.

    I think then we need time to see if TC ban adapted to f1 is too dangerous or not.

    Anyway the fact that an F1 without TC is hell a thing to control is quite good i think for the driving challenge.

  12. AmericanTifosi
    8th January 2008, 13:18

    The TC ban should not be that dangerous to drivers who can sufficently cope with it. (Like Kimi!) About the mind games thing, that’s an intreging observation but I doubt Kimi would do that. It seems like more of a straightorward answer to me. But, if I’m wrong…

  13. AmericanTifosi
    8th January 2008, 13:26

    I just read this quote by Heikki Kovalainen on the official F1 website:

    “Of course the driver makes more of a difference now, especially in wet conditions, but that is the beauty of racing – you can test your limits, go right to the edge and still make the next corner. I don’t see any problems in whatever conditions and in the end we all know that racing is dangerous.”

    The Finns think alike no?

  14. For sure, Kimi has already broken one of the new year’s resolutions… :)

  15. The way I see it the time when you get the most benefit from TC is at lower speeds. If you spin out doing 40kph is it really that dangerous? How much is the TC really working at 200kph?

    If I were Massa I would be more concerned about how fragile the suspension is and how dangerous that can be if it fails in a high speed turn…. Especially all the times he goes off roading.

  16. I was thinking about that Dan. The traction control systems also allowed the teams to use engine braking which they won’t be able to do in 2008.

    Given the amount of power the cars have and how light they are the traction control probably does kick in even in the high gears in wet weather.

    Of course, it also depends whether the driver has configured the car to use traction control heavily or not.

  17. With an F1 car you can spin at 100mph without any problem.

    Alex wurtz even commented that it was possible to spin the wheels with TC on.

  18. Kimi and Heikki’s comments elevate my level of respect for both of them. As someone else here observed, a possible Finnish trait, “I’ll trust my skills and race whatever they put under me”. And I have little doubt it was a subtle message to the rest of the drivers if not to his teammate.

  19. I race 125 ICC Gearbox karts, 6 speed gearbox, 120mph at the likes of Donington Park. When its dry, its tough, but when it rains, its like driving on an ice rink, because the amount of power these karts put out is astounding. So I can, very vaguely though, relate to the danger!! Nowhere near an F1 car mind :)

    Drivers like Jenson and Lewis who did karting will have no problems driving without TC, because thats what they had to do throughout karting! The drivers who didnt, maybe Nakajima, will struggle. Now there will be a real difference between the drivers who have come up through the ranks, and those who have paid their way up.

  20. I find it incredible in this day and age that people still think that drivers should take insane risks. The problem in Fuji was not grip it was lack of visibility. Sure a few drivers went off the track but the real problem with single seater cars in those conditions is that the driver cannot see anything. Those of us who are old enough remember Didier Pironi going into a ball of spray at Hockenheim in 1982 only to find that Alain Prost was going very slowly in it. Pironi hit the back of Prost’s car and trashed his legs. He never raced again. Is anyone seriously suggesting those kinds of stupid risks are acceptable. Driving at Fuji in that weather is like driving most of the lap wearing a blindfold.

    As to whether the FIA will ever be prosecuted. I have to say that is very unlikely. The Senna accident regardless of other factors was caused by the FIA. Piquet hit the same wall a few years earlier. To most of us a driver hitting an unprotected wall at speed would have rung alarm bells. Not the FIA. A couple of years later Berger hit the same wall in a Ferrari. The car burst into flames and a worldwide TV audience sat and watch Gerhard sit not moving in a burning car for 30 seconds before a marshal appeared on the scene. In the end he suffered minor burning but while we were watching it most of us thought he was dead. The FIA still did nothing. Then Senna hit the same wall and died. Then the FIA changed the layout of the track.

    You don’t need to be the highest paid lawyer on the planet to prove that the FIA had taken no action despite previous serious accidents at the same spot. They were demonstrably complacent and negligent. But Williams were dragged through the courts and the FIA were never charged with anything.

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