Kimi Raikkonen’s qualifying problems

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.

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27 comments on Kimi Raikkonen’s qualifying problems

  1. Kester said on 7th August 2008, 11:24

    Kimi has always been one to take more fuel into quali than other drivers. Even back in his Maclaren days they would often go around 3-5 laps longer than the guys in front.

    It’s a great tactic if you are just behind them, but when you’re stuck behind Renaults and Toyotas, you’re going to be well out of contention when the pit stops come.

    I don’t think Kimi’s problem lies with the amount of fuel he has though, he’s the fastest guy this year without doubt. He just needs to hook up a clean lap in Q3, something which he hasn’t been able to do in the last 2 races.

    Although, regardless of that, a quick fix could be to fuel him lighter in 2 and a bit weeks time.

  2. graham228221 said on 7th August 2008, 11:39

    i’m not convinced it’s fuel. alonso and webber’s times in germany and hungary compare well and they have as much or more fuel. he might even be pushing too hard, filipe really looks smoother during quali.

    i’d love it if they made fuel loads available to spectators at some point, as i’m not sure that first pit stops are a completely accurate picture of fuel loads. we can see how much goes in during a pitstop, so why not?

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th August 2008, 12:09

    For an alternative angle, here’s Alan Henry in this week’s Autocar:

    I received an interesting insight into [Raikkonen's] character from one McLaren insider who worked with the Finn during his time driving with the team. He said that within ten minutes of Kimi walking into the team garage on Friday morning you would know whether he was going to be inspired or if the whole weekend was going to be a waste of time.

  4. Kester said on 7th August 2008, 12:20

    Unfortunately I can believe that.

  5. Oliver said on 7th August 2008, 12:21

    Kimi only stopped much later than Massa in Hungary, because he was able to save fuel while held up behind Alonso. This season, both Ferrari drivers have often stopped just one or two laps apart. In Hungar, Ferrari just realized he was always going to be slower no matter what amount of fuel he was carrying, with the other alternative being fueling him lighter than Massa

  6. Loki said on 7th August 2008, 12:33

    Unfortunately, I can believe that as well (Post #3). Having said that, it could just be a disgruntled worker. He wasn’t Mr Happy at McLaren so maybe that has changed (or not).

    I don’t think it is fuel factor, although it’s a good hypothesis given the data. I think it is the car/driver hook up for the hot lap, of which Massa seems to do better at anyway. Recent upgrades to the car may not suit Kimi’s setup for qualifying, but I think in general we’ve just seen Kimi underperform in terms of race, and not just pace itself (taking race fastest laps out of it).

  7. Paul Sainsbury said on 7th August 2008, 12:54

    It is so depressing that we have to speculate about fuel. Quali should be on equal fuel loads so we wouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense.

  8. Taimur said on 7th August 2008, 13:07

    Regarding post #3. I think that, that Mclaren worker might be the one who used to inform Kimi almost every other weekend: Sorry mate, we’ve gotta change your engine so you’ll be starting 10 positions down the grid!!

  9. George said on 7th August 2008, 13:24

    The Alan Henry quote is an indicative one I fear Keith – Henry first published that anecdote in the 2006 Autocourse driver’s top ten review of Kimi’s year. I think that Raikonnen’s famous lack of emotion, which serves him so well on occasion, stems from a basic disinterestedness in the technicalities of F1. He wants to get into a car, drive it quickly, win and go home. Unfortunately, as Schumacher spent a decade and more teaching them all, if you want to be the best, that just doesn’t work. Kimi will always be a contender, but he will never dominate – perhaps in the way his talent would enable him to, should he apply it consistently.

  10. Bluray said on 7th August 2008, 13:51

    Good one Taimur!!

    Since none of us seem to be donning a red overall and siting in the Ferrari box on the race weekends, all we can do unfortuantely is speculate based on the limited data that is available to us.

    Some points that could be considered are:
    1. New enhancements not helping Kimi’s qualifying
    2. I dunno whether fuel loads are affecting him, coz I have a hazy memeory of him out-qualifying the likes of Juan Pablo on a heavier car. But that was long back on a Michellin shod McLaren. (Was the fuel load quali rule applicable back then? Ooh I hate it when I can’t remember things) So the heavy tactic might be a reason.
    3. May be he has fallen behind Massa in setting up the car? In the last 2 tests preceding the race he was happy and reasonably quick. But in the race weekends, he seemd so outta control.

    I believe the real reason could be a combination of the abovementioned, or most likely, it could be something that any of us have no clue about. Like say, he was worried about his wife’s horse riding competition??!!??

    I can see a long comment coming from a certain Evenstar…

  11. I’m Vietnamese, sao i can’t speak E very well, first,I am very happy that i could find a great blog like this……I have no comment about the qualify, but i think Kiimi not sucess in the qualify not by his car heavy but because his psychology not very well due to the effect of his recently race………

    i’m vietnamese, very happy that i could make friends with everybody…I’m a fan of Ferrari and Manchester United

  12. Chaz said on 7th August 2008, 18:03

    I suspect Ferrari’s way of doing things does not exactly gel with Kimi and this probably unsettles Kimi. After Michael Schumacher dominant reign at Ferrari (being ultra focused, prepared, meticulous, thorough, etc), I think it will be hard for anyone to fill his boots with them unless they exhibit the same traits.

  13. Noel said on 7th August 2008, 19:31

    Bless you, Kimi at 11 above. Welcome to the site.

    You may well be right about Kimi’s mind, but don’t mention Man U to the majority of Brits around here, I’m sure :)

  14. Wesley said on 7th August 2008, 23:15

    I made some comments a few days ago,on another one of Keith’s posts that apply to this article about Kimi’s attitude.He is very fast but,like I said before and many of you are saying,Kimi is not submerged in the sport the way Michael was and never will be.He is a racer but,not a technical racer.Too bad really,who knows what he could accomplish.

    Welcome Kimi..post #11..( our new Vietnamese friend,not the Finn )

    Hey you Brits…Is being a Man U fan anything like being an Oasis fan?I have been to some rowdy Oasis concerts surrounded by footballers slamming down the Guinness…and I live in the States..(sorry,off topic Keith)

  15. I think George hit the nail on the head. All Kimi wants to do is show up, drive fast, win & go home.

    He simply doesn’t care – or at least gives the impression he doesn’t care – about anything else.

    If there are set up issues, then I just can’t see Kimi motivated to look into them.

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