How Kimi Raikkonen has overtaken Felipe Massa as fastest Ferrari driver

Kimi Raikkonen has been faster than Felipe Massa in recent races

Kimi Raikkonen has been faster than Felipe Massa in recent races

Ferrari’s Shanghai switch provoked the usual debate over team orders – but it also signified a development that could have a crucial bearing on the outcome of the world championship:

Kimi Raikkonen is now the faster of the two Ferrari drivers.

Do you agree? Is this good or bad for Felipe Massa? Here’s what I think, share your ideas below.

In my Chinese Grand Prix predictions I wrote:

I?m getting an impression that Kimi Raikkonen has become the quicker of the two drivers once again. In a recent interview he said that at Spa he had gone back to an earlier setup configuration and it had improved his pace.

He was quicker than Massa at Spa (but crashed) and was very quick late in the race at Monza. At Singapore he was reeling in Massa and Hamilton when the safety car came out, then at Fuji he out-qualified Massa for the first time since the British Grand Prix.

That trend continued at Shanghai. Raikkonen out-qualified Massa again, this time with one lap’s less fuel on board. In the race, he was consistently quicker until having to yield (see the Chinese Grand Prix analysis for more information).

Has Raikkonen improved or is Massa struggling?

Why has this happened? Perhaps it’s the changes that he made at Spa. Perhaps the pressure of the championship is beginning to unsettle Massa.

This is a situation Massa hasn’t been in since he won the Formula 3000 Euro Series in 2001 – and that was a championship he won emphatically with six wins in eight races, sparing him a down-to-the-wire nail-biter like this.

Hamilton on the other hand was in the same situation last year, and won the GP2 championship at the final event in 2006.

What does this mean for the championship?

Obviously, if Massa’s not getting the most out of his car, then it makes it all the harder for him to take the fight to Hamilton.

As we saw in Shanghai Massa can expect Raikkonen to yield positions when he needs to. But he can’t expect Raikkonen to fight as hard as he would for his own title. Remember Michael Schumacher coming up short at Suzuka in 1999 when chasing Mika Hakkinen for Eddie Irvine’s benefit?

If Raikkonen proves the quicker of the two at Interlagos, how should Ferrari exploit that? Put him light on fuel to take the lead and contain Hamilton’s pace? Or fuel him up and try to out-fox Hamilton in the pit stops?

Or will Massa reverse the trend at Interlagos, where he has always been strong? He put his Sauber fourth on the grid there in 2004, won in 2006, and under normal circumstances would have won there once more last year.

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44 comments on How Kimi Raikkonen has overtaken Felipe Massa as fastest Ferrari driver

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  1. Very interesting analysis. When I was watching the Chinese GP, I remember thinking the whole time that if someone, any other driver had managed to get between the two Ferraris, (leaving Kimi and Massa running in 2nd and 4th place respectively) the whole strategy would be ruined because they wouldn’t be able to make the switch. Interlagos could be very interesting if the Ferraris start (or come out of the first lap) with a outside car between them.

    I don’t think this is the result of pressure getting to Massa, and if it is, I don’t think that will affect him in Brazil. He seems very comfortable on that track.

  2. stevepCambsUK said on 21st October 2008, 13:22

    i think hes more confident since ferrari provided a new chasis for him a few races back

  3. Alex Cooper said on 21st October 2008, 13:46

    To be honest I’ve always thought Kimi to be the faster; by his own admissions he’s had a bad year and this year’s car isn’t something that’s suited him all that well (though you’d wonder why Ferrari wouldn’t build a car specifically for their own World Champion).

  4. donwatters said on 21st October 2008, 13:49

    Although Massa has been very quick at his home track, if Kimi truly is faster it’s going to be tough to let Massa get past without looking like it’s team orders…which of course are not legal…ha ha.

  5. Adrian said on 21st October 2008, 13:57

    I think Massa will be back on form in Brazil – as has been stated many times he loves that track.

    For me McLaren’s best strategy for Lewis would be to Short fuel him for the first stint to give him the best shot at pole (and get the softer tyre out of the way) and then make him run long 2 and 3 stints, stay out of trouble and hope for a safty car if they want the win. Or even a 3 stop strategy, but that could backfire if a safety car came out at the wrong time. They should also light fuel Heikki, get him on the front row with Lewis and use him to hold up the Ferrari’s while Lewis builds a buffer just to be sure…

  6. I wonder whether Kimi has to use the settings that Massa uses for the race, or is allowed to decide himself. It does appear that when he has the car beneath him, he can get the performance in and leave Massa standing.
    But what about all those fastest laps at the end of the races all through the season, and then leaving Massa behind in China and having to slow down to let him pass?
    I think Kimi is out for victory himself, but with a nod to ‘team orders’ to allow Massa in front if he is able to.
    As long as the other teams are able to outqualify either of the Ferraris in Brazil, they won’t be able to get a decent strategy together for the race, and so will lose points….

  7. To me it’s no surprise, Kimi has been one of the fastest drivers since he got with Mclaren, he may not be the most consistent. But, he is way faster and way better than Massa.

  8. Kimi vs Massa on both their best days? Kimi wins. Massa has just been the favoured driver the past couple years.

  9. Guatuzy said on 21st October 2008, 15:33

    I got a horrible feeling that Hamilton’car is going to fail…I hope not but it coul happened. He has given away some many points that I got the feeling that he is going to be punished.

  10. varun said on 21st October 2008, 15:51

    I feel Massa was struggle in china was a one off thing. He will be back at his best in Brazil. Hes always been great in Brazil.

  11. http://www.formula1.com/news/technical/2008/802/598.html

    Up until September’s Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari were struggling with poor traction, caused primarily by the car’s inability to warm its tyres (chiefly the rears) at a quick enough rate, especially in cool or wet conditions. This put the F2008 at a disadvantage in terms of acceleration, especially when compared with McLaren’s MP4-23. At the recent Singapore race, however, the team seemed to have gone a long way towards solving the issue by adopting a softer, more progressive set-up for the rear suspension’s third horizontal damper and its two torsion bars (see yellow arrow and inset). The third damper consists of a tungsten/wolfram (heavy metal) cylinder that rotates inside an outer casing, dissipating the inertia generated by the track’s bumpy surface and kerbs. Better set-up of this device, together with an accurate choice of torsion bars, has dramatically improved the behaviour of the car, especially at the rear. In Japan, this was of particular help to Kimi Raikkonen, who prefers a very stable rear end in his set-up. (Felipe Massa focuses more on the car’s front end.)

    Ferrari seem to have developed their car in such a way that aids Kimi and not Felipe; as shown in the link above. Both are known to have very different styles and preferences about their demands from the car. For eg:
    Felipe wants more understeer, Kimi more oversteer.

    I don’t understand Ferrari’s logic to give Felipe a handicap this late in the championship fight.

    I think John will be able to explain this development better. Your comments please :-)

  12. James said on 21st October 2008, 16:52

    Did you notice that Kimi abandoned the shark fin in China whereas Filipe didn’t? This fin stabalises the rear, limiting oversteer (good for Massa’s understeery style, less so for Kimi’s preferred oversteery style). I wonder if Ferrari haven’t dropped a clanger in bringing the shark fin to almost every race in the second half of the season (Kimi has struggled a lot more in the second half than the first), (unintentionally) providing a car whose handling suits Massa better than their world champion.

  13. I think (I hope too) Massa will be very competitive in Brazil and Kimi should not be a problem for him. Anyway pressure’s up and Hamilton’s still favorite to win the championship with, say, a 3rd or 4th at Sao Paulo…

  14. pSynrg said on 21st October 2008, 17:33

    I still think Lewis will be balls out going for the win. He doesn’t seem to know any other way, certainly in the first 2 stints at least.
    It is of course incredibly risky but it’s precisely this which makes him so bloody exciting.
    For pure unadulterated entertainment value I want Massa on pole with Lewis in 2nd. Lewis hunting down Massa with significantly less at stake in attempting an overtake. It would for me and indeed Lewis, be sweet to see him overtake Massa and take the championship on Brazilian soil.

  15. @DG (#6)

    I think you are right about Kimi being out to win. He will try to win and will only let Massa pass if it will make a difference in his c’ship hopes. i.e. if Hamilton is running 6th, or lower then Massa needs to win the race and Kimi will let him pass if he is in a position to do so. If Hamilton is running 5th or higher, it doesn’t matter where Massa finishes, he will lose as long as Hamilton finishes the race. Kimi may let Massa pass even if Lewis is in the top because its racing and anything could happen to where Hamilton all of a sudden drops out and the single position could make a world of difference.

    Also – if Massa is behind Kimi and there is anyone separating the Ferrari’s other than Alonso, Massa will have his work cut out for him.

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