Kimi Raikkonen’s qualifying problems

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kimi Raikkonen has spoken about his problems in qualifying
Kimi Raikkonen has spoken about his problems in qualifying

Kimi Raikkonen has qualified sixth for the last two Grands Prix – not a disaster by any means but it’s clearly causing problems for his championship ambitions.

At both the Hockenheimring and Hungaroring he found himself stuck behind slower traffic which compromised his race performance.

What’s Raikkonen’s problem and what can Ferrari do about it?

Although Massa had a couple of problems of his own in qualifying (sixth in Canada, ninth in Britain), Raikkonen’s two sixth places in the last two races are a cause of concern at Ferrari (see chart).

Here’s how Raikkonen analysed his problems after the Hungarian Grand Prix:

Every time something strange happened and we didn’t manage to find the best possible set up for the car. We tried to find a good compromise, but it didn’t help. We’ve got to solve that problem now for the upcoming race at Valencia.

The qualifying was the decisive moment also at Budapest, in a negative way. In my second try in Q3 I couldn’t keep the car on the track: that was my fault.

You can’t pretend to win the title if you’re always starting from the sixth position. You can even drive one second faster per lap than the one ahead of you, but if you start from behind you can’t use the pace you’ve got.

Could it be that Raikkonen is carrying too much fuel into qualifying and finding himself behind slower cars as a result? In the last two races he’s been among the heaviest:

German Grand Prix grid top eight

Position Driver Lap time First pit stop
1 Lewis Hamilton 1’15.666 18
2 Felipe Massa 1’15.869 20
3 Heikki Kovalainen 1’16.143 21
4 Jarno Trulli 1’16.191 19
5 Fernando Alonso 1’16.385 19
6 Kimi Raikkonen 1’16.389 22
7 Robert Kubica 1’16.521 18
8 Mark Webber 1’17.014 23

Hungarian Grand Prix grid top eight

Position Driver Lap time First pit stop
1 Lewis Hamilton 1’20.899 19
2 Heikki Kovalainen 1’21.140 21
3 Felipe Massa 1’21.191 18
4 Robert Kubica 1’21.281 18
5 Timo Glock 1’21.326 20
6 Kimi Raikkonen 1’21.516 22
7 Fernando Alonso 1’21.698 22
8 Mark Webber 1’21.732 18

Even if it’s not the cause of his problem perhaps a short-term fix could be to reduce the amount of fuel he takes into qualifying.

Assuming it means he is then able to out-qualifying the likes of Alonso, Trulli, Glock and Kubica they probably wouldn’t be able to cause him any problems in the race because his race lap times are excellent – he’s set the fastest lap in seven of the last eight rounds.

Perhaps Ferrari have underestimated how much Renault and Toyota have developed and are trying to take more fuel into qualifying than they can comfortably out-qualify the midfield cars with. With Raikkonen being the heaviest car in qualifying in the last two races it has affected him and not Massa. Therefore, could Ferrari swap their approach of the last two races and put Raikkonen on the lighter load at Valencia?

What else could it be? It doesn’t seem to be tyre related – different compounds were used at the Hungaroring compared to the Hockenheimring.

Whatever Raikkonen’s problem is, it doesn’t seem to be affecting Massa. Although Raikkonen has had some misfortune this year he knows that had it not been for Massa’s engine failure in Hungary Massa would be nine points ahead of him in the championship now.