The three Kimi Raikkonens

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Monaco, 2008, 470150

On his day, Kimi Raikkonen is untouchable. Blisteringly quick over a single lap, relentlessly consistent over a stint, irrepressibly smart when it comes to the cut and thrust of wheel-to-wheel racing.

And then he turns up at the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix and puts in the kind of performance that makes you wonder whether Nelson Piquet Jnr has taken over his car. Or he meekly follows team mate Felipe Massa around for an afternoon before zipping back to Switzerland.

Raikkonen had a tough start to last season but he turned it around and was the driver to beat over the final races. With the title under his belt I expected him to assert himself at Ferrari and lead Massa home more often than not. And yet we’re still not seeing that kind of consistency from him. Why is that?

For me, Raikkonen is easily F1’s most impenetrable driver. And I know others feel the same way – back in April Clive at F1 Insight asked:

Why does he throw it off the road so needlessly sometimes? Why has he not blown Massa into the weeds yet? Why does he look so determined at one race and then apathetic at the next?

That sums it up quite neatly. In six races this year we’ve seen three different Raikkonens: the masterful world champion who blew everyone away at Sepang and Catalunya, the muted runner-up to his team mate at Bahrain and Istanbul, and the error-prone mess that showed up at Melbourne and Monte-Carlo.

Over the balance of 2007 we saw muxh more of the first two Raikkonens than the third. And as Massa, despite the odd wobble, continues to gradually improve, so we must revise our expectation that Raikkonen will beat him week in, week out.

But over the first six races of it’s starting to look as though Massa is overtaking him – and the championship points standings are beginning to bear that out.

Perhaps part of the picture has been distorted by the absence of Michael Schumacher. In his peak years of 2001-3 mistakes from Schumacher were quite rare and the thought of him turning up at a race weekend and just being off the pace was unthinkable.

Schumacher, of course, was afforded every advantage a number one driver was entitled to. Neither Raikkonen nor Massa have that at Ferrari today. So it’s possible that I’m judging the current drivers too harshly.

However I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the reigning Formula 1 world champion not to lose control of his car four times in six races.

Last year’s explanation that he was having trouble acclimatising to the new Bridgestone tyres is gone. And he has the best car on the grid. So what is going on with Kimi Raikkonen?

Kimi Raikkonen biography

Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica, Monaco, 2008, 470313

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55 comments on The three Kimi Raikkonens

  1. scottmcm said on 28th May 2008, 9:26

    First off, I don’t think there is anything “wrong” with Kimi at all. As he said after monaco, everthing that could go wrong, did go wrong…lady luck wasn’t on his side last Sunday. And it’s certainly wrong to compare him with other drivers – they were using different machinery, different rules, it was a different game!

    For my money, Kimi is the fastest guy out there at the moment, just edging out Alonso. He’s faster and more committed into corners, smoother out of corners and lighter on the brakes. He doesn’t blame anyone else for errors, or whine or moan, and is adored by the team.

    I was lucky enough to see the Ferrari at monaco last week, and to be honest, in the swimming pool complex and Rascasse, Kimi was the only one “feathering” the throttle through the corner – rather than the ragged “on-off” style of Massa and Hamilton for instance.

    The team mistake on getting the right tyres on the car in time, must have rattled him, for sure…but it was simply a bad day. I don’t think there are 3 Kimis as the original post suggests, he’s a very, very quick driver, all the time.

    As regards trailing Massa, we should all know that following a car up close is a nightmare on aero downforce at the front of today’s cars. He’s human being, with emotions like everyone else, but I find his character more sincere and credible in public, much more than many of the other PR-driven guys. And on driving ability – my spine tingles when Kimi goes out in the car, because you know he’s gonna try and wrestle the most out of it. He’s not a purist, he’s not a professor, and he’s not an emotional hot-head. He is a driver, which we like, right?

    Massa is still too rough around the edges, and jeez, monaco is hardly the place to start saying that drivers are on a downhill slope. Lewis put it in the wall and so did 2x world champ Fernando. But I think we are on for a thrilling season and I still would place bets on Kimi for the title.

    As a final note, I’me with Evenstar (as always) and The Limit, who puts this so well…
    “He is a class act, just as Alonso and Schumacher are and always will be, he just conducts himself in an altogether different way. He would be quite at home in the F1 of old, when drivers wore scarves and had only a bale of straw between them and the almighty.”

  2. I cannot belive what I read. Kimmi is not a surprise for me. He has been most of his career in the top teams, and never performed, until last year McL lost the championship to him. I do not believe that he won it but Hamilton gave it to him. It was a miracle, dont you all remember?
    In 2005 and 06 till mid-last-season he was kown in Spain as the cars braker. Iniatilly he was nicked as the unluckiest diver in F1, but after one by one brake people started to think that the bad luck was something too much suspicious on him, and that perhaps have something to be with his abuse on engines. I dont really know if this is true, but for sure till the very end of last year he never performed as the driver who was going to dominate F1 for the next coming years.

    That is why I´m not surprised of his performence in Monte Carlo. I´d like to see Hamilton, Alonso, Kubica or Jeson if you want, even Fishy, fitted in that “rocket” he´s driving, and see if they are not contenders for a world championship.

    Let´s see what the season brings. There are three top teams but only one wich is really ahead in features, and to me those two drivers are benefited for them.

  3. By the way, any current driver on his day driving a Ferrary is untouchable.

  4. Harkirat said on 28th May 2008, 10:38

    Nobody likes to lose. Nobody. The same goes for Kimi. Yes, he doesn’t break down into tears when he loses, nor does he start planning ways of making some other driver or his own team mate falter. No one can deny that he, like Robert, will only play one mind game on the driver in front, which is simply “Knock, Knock”.

    To accuse him of not being focussed enough because of a few bad races is utterly unfair. There are only two drivers he has never been able to completely blow away as team mates, Nick and Felipe. I believe that instead of writing off Kimi, we need to analyse the other drivers around him such as the rise of Felipe (I have always liked him), Robert (Starting to like, but feels too much like an ethical version of Michael) and the fall of Heikki and Nick.

    The fall of Heikki and Nick is very important to note this season, as it has allowed cars less amazing (Williams, Toyota, Honda) to get till Q3 regulalrly, and has also created the perception that the top teams (save for Ferrari) are not all that great.

    In fact, I believe that Ferrari is at the top of the tables simply because both drivers were at their peak performance after Australia. Both Kimi and Felipe are becoming regular visitors to the front row and the Podium, and this has created the illusion that McLaren and BMW are scavenging the points that Ferrari dropped.

    Sorry, I think I digressed a bit too much here, but yes ultimately, I do not think Kimi is a loser or not driven. I think he just doesn’t see the need to justify a failure. He seems to be the kind of a person who lives in the present and the future and because of this, he always looks ahead to the next race, regardless of whether he won or lost the last race.

    So Keith, I don’t think there are three Kimis, there is just one Kimi who has raced each race the best he could, and four of those races ended without him winning them.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th May 2008, 10:45

    There are only two drivers he has never been able to completely blow away as team mates, Nick and Felipe.

    And Juan Pablo Montoya, who took a few wins off him.

    In fact the list of drivers he ‘blew away’ is looking pretty thin: David Coulthard, Pedro de la Rosa… and that’s it.

  6. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 28th May 2008, 12:28

    i agree with keith, if he really is the fastest driver in f1 his teamates wouldnt get near him, ok massa is fast and so was montoya but if kimi was the fatstest man out there he would beat them 9 times out of 10. Look at the last fastest man in f1, schumacher, how often did you see him being out qualified??? rarley, out raced?? even less. same for senna.

    kimi is very good when he wants to be but on days where he knows he cant win he dissapoints and seems to make half an effort.

    i think over a season hel always outscore massa but hel never dominate him.

    i think at the moment the fatsest driver in f1 is alonso, hes defintiley the most completete driver, then behind him i think its close between massa, kimi and hamilton and kubica are getting better all the time.

  7. Jimi said on 28th May 2008, 12:36

    I’d count Montoya as one the drivers Kimi has “blown away”. In 2005 Kimi had 122 points and took seven wins, whereas Montoya had only 60 points and three wins. Doesn’t that count as “completely blown away”?

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th May 2008, 12:50

    Jimi – We could end up in a very boring argument about semantics if we’re not careful!

    Here’s what I wrote about Raikkonen and Montoya at the time: 2005 driver rankings #10-1. Looking at the season I would say Fernando Alonso “blew away” Giancarlo Fisichella, but I don’t think you can apply the same term to Montoya.

  9. sriram said on 28th May 2008, 16:58

    Some people question Kimi’s consistency,i would like to suggest them to have a nice look at 2003 season.With just 1 win in his bag he was able to fight for the Championship with Shumi.I think thats what consistency mean.With current Grid i don’t see any one with that consistency including Alonso.Alonso won in 2005 because of a reliable car,if by chance Mclaren had that consistency the Championship would have been over by mid season won comfortably by Kimi.
    I know he would bounce back and beat everyone fair and square.As far as Massa form is concerned,It should be analyzed apart from his Favorite circuit.
    I’m pretty sure he’ll win this Championship for sure.

  10. Sush u have a way with words….pure poetry!

  11. the limit said on 28th May 2008, 21:04

    To Keith.

    Montoya did take some wins of Raikkonen in 2005, and should have won that year’s Spa GP. The fact remains that McLaren’s main threat to Alonso proved to be Raikkonen throughout the season, not Montoya.
    Just remember, in 2001, pundits were saying that Montoya would win the F1 championship. At the end of the day, that did not happen, no matter what spin is put on it.
    Raikkonen is still a superb driver. I can remember a time when people were saying some pretty ‘bad’ things about Senna, and Prost, and Mansell.
    At the end of the day, the Kimster got a nice cheque for $45 million last year. He who laughs last laughs the longest, it would seem!

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th May 2008, 21:19

    I don’t disagree with your points but nor do I agree Raikkonen “blew him away”.

  13. the limit said on 28th May 2008, 21:25

    You know, I always felt Montoya had lost interest with F1 around 2005, didn’t he miss a couple of races due to injury early in the season?

  14. Ah, the tennis shoulder! Yes he did miss the Bahrain and San Marino Grands Prix, which did not help his acclimatisation into McLaren any. I can see where the limit is coming from.

  15. Sri said on 28th May 2008, 23:54

    I agree with all those who say there’s nothing wrong with Kimi. 3 Kimi’s? Definitely makes for an interesting read. However, as some chappie before me pointed it out, that he, regardless of a win/ loss, moves on and prepares for the next race.

    He’s one very sincere and unassuming chap you could come across on the grid, with definitely a huge dose of cold (read finnish) sense of humour(remember ‘was taking a $#!|’ on Schumacher’s send off). He’s got a reputation of snoozing before the race(s). Blah, blah, blah (i sure can go on about how this chap is great, am a fan…)

    Massa, Kubica, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Kovi and Alonso(yeah well, flame me…) of the current crop to name a few, come across as rather genuine a person to me. I like that. Ones who could admit that they are human and are rather unassuming. Yeah well, Alonso has been mouthing off a bit too much, i must say. He should try and return back to his 2004 self. Saying little or nothing at all and let his driving do the talking for him. He does not need to prove his worth to someone/ anyone. His cv reads back-to-back champion (beating schu, kimi to them). ’nuff said!

    Getting back onto subject here, erm, let Kimi be. He found his head around the exploding/ breaking/ pathetic(any one?) Macca’s, only to come back strongly and be a contender again for the title in ’06 and then winning it in ’07.

    In Kimi, we trust! This is something that would be writ large on F1 currency….

    p.s: i almost forgot this one… i like how it annoys the hell out of Bernie, that he(as a world champion) wouldn’t bend over to help Bernie make some more dosh(with promo events etc…) or get him any publicity. Go Kimi!!!

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