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. Juhhi said on 29th May 2008, 2:20

    It was Kimi´s first test with Sauber when Michael Schumacher said: Who is that new guy who drives like that?
    I think if Schumi said like that it tells all.

    Ok,my opinion is that Kimi has lose his biggest interest to F1 and it´s all because He won title 07.
    Before this season he also said that Massa would be faster on some tracks and He would be faster on some tracks.
    Kimi is different comparing great champions like Schumacher, Senna, Prost….He also has a life out of F1…And racing is not everything to Him…
    Kimi is fastest driver on grid today(with alonso), but He is very depentend how He feels, and it´s shown when race starts…

  2. Jean said on 29th May 2008, 12:01

    I put Kimi’s lacklustre performance in Monaco down to two things : First , he had got the penalty , which must upset a drivers mind negatively even if in a small way . Then , considering the conditions in Monaco , I would think a slightly sensible driver contesting the world championship , would err ever so slightly on the side of caution , in the event of a crash and a risk of a broken ankle . Those two factors could easily have slowed him by about .5 sec. , and the rest is history. He will be back in full form in Canada. That said , Massa , Hamilton , Kubica and Alonso , are as good . The only way we could know who the best is , if they had identical cars , which even then is not 100%. As for commitment , Kimi does come across as a bit lacking , but more in the interviews and news than on the track , so it could be a case of that’s the way his personality is.

  3. As I remember, the general view of Mika Hakkenan was similar to that of Kimi now. I think there must be a general approach to racing in Scandinavia that makes them appear uninterested in interviews and off the track.
    Kovi doesn’t appear to be like this however, perhaps he never read the manual!

  4. Lady Snowcat said on 30th May 2008, 20:44

    Kimi did throw caution to the winds in two races this year to get past when the odds were stacked against…

    Those races were Oz and Monaco…

    If he’d been more circumspect he’d be in the lead of the WDC still…. but he has the soul of a racer…

    He’s the class of the field… no moans about his team or team mate …. just drives the car… and no dirty moves on other title contenders either…

    Some days it works and some it doesn’t… but the guy has class…

  5. The 50th comment on this most interesting thread where people’s opinions clearly differ through all extremes.

    My thoughts, for the little that they’re worth, are that Kimi himself knows that he was slightly fortunate last season that events conspired to allow him to take the driver’s crown from so far back, notwithstanding his stellar late season drives. His performances this year smack of a driver who knows that it is important to be in the hunt come the end of the year, but not essential to be out in front.

    There is a degree of measure to his performance and I have commented before about how he has reigned in the showboating from earlier in his career. Occasionally his brilliance still shines through though. To measure the true talent of a mercurial driver like Kimi, I think you have to do it on the basis of his best drives (usually from the back of the pack) rather than his average drives.

    For what it is worth – and again probably against popular opinion – I find Raikkonen by far and away the most interesting personality on the grid. Some of his instinctive answers to journalists betray genuine humour and intelligence, and no small sense of place.

    All that said, he is probably only the second fastest driver in the current field :)

  6. Dorian said on 31st May 2008, 15:16

    To the three or four people who have written that Raikonnen is ‘overrated’ or ‘not that fast’ or any other comments of a similar tone: You guys are being ridiculous to the point of being offensive!

    Raikonnen is one of the best drivers in the 2008 calender and that’s a fact! Now many other people who have posted their opinions as to why Raikonnen is or isn’t doing as well as he could/should be, have made many many excellent points and I have enjoyed reading them. Some of them I have agreed with, some of them I haven’t agreed with but nonetheless I can see that the writers obviously know what they’re talking about.

    But when certain people (posts 24, 32 and especially 29) try to discredit the driving ability of a fantastic driver, it makes me wonder if they know anything about driving or the sport of Formula 1 at all.

    I am most certainly a fan of Raikonnen, however if someone were to say that Alonso or Massa is better, it wouldn’t bother me as I believe there would be validity to their statement (even if I weren’t to agree). But if anyone were to doubt the ability of such drivers like RAIKONNEN, ALONSO, MASSA, HAMILTON or KUBICA then I would say ‘How about actually watching them drive?!’…..and if you still doubt their ability………then I would say that you’re blind!

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st May 2008, 17:20

    I think those three comments you’ve cited are a million miles from being ‘offensive’. Nor do I think it’s fair to tell them they don’t know anything about the sport just because you don’t agee with them.

    Jolene, for example, compares Raikkonen to Schumacher and claims Raikkonen lacks commitment. In comparitive terms I don’t think that’s unfair. We all know Schumacher would spend hours debriefing after races whereas Raikkonen, if memory serves me correctly, left the Spanish Grand Prix last year before the chequered flag had fallen.

  8. Dorian said on 31st May 2008, 18:21

    With all due respect Keith, I was using the word offensive to convey the magnitude of how much I believe or rather know that what they were saying regarding Raikkonens ability is incorrect.

    As I stated in my second paragraph I have no problem with people disagreeing with something I believe or something that other people believe as this is one of the things that makes this site so great. I just find it hard to believe that if someone were to concentrate and watch the way Raikkonen or any of the aforementioned driver’s in my previous post drive, that they could deny how good they are.

    In her second sentence, she said that she ‘never believed Raikkonen to be as good as people believed’. To me, she is effectively saying that Raikkonen is not a great driver…….. but he is. She certainly may be right regarding his commitment but that’s one matter, his driving ability is another and I believe that’s what she was impuning by her first statement.

    I’ll admit that my saying that ‘they do not know anything about driving or Formula 1′ was quite harsh and I certainly apologise if I patronised anyone but I believe there are certain things that aren’t really debateable. The sky is blue, stars are sparkly and Senna , Schumacher, Alonso and Raikkonen are great drivers.

  9. Zander said on 1st June 2008, 21:49

    The fact that he states in his column that he was very disappointed with the outcome of the Monaco race, suggest that he is still enjoying his racing and he could have been fifth if it was for that accident(where on the video you can actually seen Sutil being out of shape in that corner.)Almost finishing fifth after two front wing replacements, a drive-through penalty and stopping an extra time just for dry tyres is and will always be good.

    How can people be analyzing any of the drivers’ performances if it isn’t half way into the season?

    Just take a look at some his “records” thus far:
    # Räikkönen holds the joint record of 7 wins in a single season without winning the World Title (2005), shared with four time World Champion Alain Prost, who initially set the record in 1984 and matched it in 1988, and also with Michael Schumacher, in 2006.
    # In the 2005 season, he also equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 10 fastest race laps in a season, set in 2004.
    # He currently holds the sixth highest record for total fastest laps at 24 (jointly with Niki Lauda), thus making him the highest ranked driver still active. (Up to and including the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix)
    # He is the first driver to win on his Ferrari debut since Nigel Mansell at the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix and the first to win, set the fastest lap and Pole Position on his Ferrari debut since Juan Manuel Fangio.
    # He is currently the highest paid driver in Formula One.
    (how can some of you doubt his ability?)

    In any case, nobody can judge any of the drivers on the grid for they are the best drivers in the world and I don’t see anyone of you up there beside them, you may have a preference but you can’t say that the other drivers are bad because in comparison to your driving skill you would be “slak kak” (meaning snail SH!T)

    As for my preference, of course I prefer Raikkonen, I’ve liked his style on and off the track since he started because he doesn’t moan and he doesn’t say he’s going to do this and that and then don’t deliver.

    For his performance in Turkey (i think) where he finished 3rd. He finished 3rd with a slightly broken front wing when kovalainen pushed his rear tyre into raikkonen on the first lap.

    As for Hamilton, he’s a great driver but I think (and i say “think”, he can prove me wrong) that he’s kind of getting a big head. He invites all these celebrities to Grand Prixs and he loves being in the spotlight, constantly giving speeches/interviews to journos and having different celebrity girlfriends at every grand prix. He’s becoming a media whore and even wrote an autobiography, (why, I ask) not even Schumacher had a bio that quick (and he had a lot more to say than a 23 year old “rookie”) Even Bernie (who’s also british) stated that he preferred Kimi being champion to someone such as Hamilton or Alonso because he’s not so flamboyant and that is good for the sport itself.

    And for Alonso, all i can say is that he IS one of the best drivers but sometimes i think he only cares about winning and not so much the sport itself (he has stated so himself in some interviews, saying that he doesn’t like to drive if he isn’t winning.)

    My main point is: It’s not ha;f way into the season, the top three are about 5 points apart and all three have each won 2 races, so it’s pretty much equal and for that reason you can’t say Raikkonen isn’t living up to expectations. I mean what about Massa, making that mistake in Sepang (which was clearly his fault) and then costing himself second place and the same goes for Melbourne (that wasn’t his fault though, but neither was it Raikkonen’s fault that his car malfunctioned.) And hamiltons performance in Bahrain and Sepang (why not start questioning their misfortunes and faults)

    YOU CAN’T GO SCRATCHING WHERE IT DOESN’T ITCH.
    JUST WATCH THE SEASON PROGRESS IN STEAD OF MAKING SILLY AND NON-CREDIBLE PREDICTIONS SO EARLY ON. (as Raikkonen has said so many times this season: “It’s a long season, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” or something like that.)

    Peace

  10. Paul Jackson said on 1st December 2008, 17:46

    10 fastest laps to Hamilton’s 2 2008

    He’s fulfilled his ambition and isn’t committed enough.

    Time to hang up his boots I’m afraid.

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