How Lotus are getting the best out of Raikkonen

2013 F1 season

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 2013It should have come as no surprise that a driver of Kimi Raikkonen’s capabilities would deliver the kind of performance he did in 2012.

On his return to the sport with a new team – one which hadn’t won a race in four seasons – he was the most consistent points-scorer of the year. After a couple of near-misses he delivered the win the team craved in Abu Dhabi.

This time 12 months ago there were questions over whether Raikkonen was up to it. His world championship triumph for Ferrari in 2007 had been followed by a couple of lacklustre seasons.

Even those close to him did not expect his return to competition in 2012. “I was more surprised about Kimi making a comeback than how he performed during the season,” said Toni Vilander, two-times FIA GT champion and a friend of Raikkonen’s.

“When he stopped, he was so fed up with Formula One and kept saying ‘never again’. I think it?s a good thing to have some distance away from everything and do something totally different, like rallying. That?s how your way of thinking changes and your approach gets stronger and stronger.”

In Raikkonen Lotus have a driver who can be relied upon to deliver race in, race out. “Kimi is Kimi,” says Vilander. “It doesn?t matter how different the cars, the tyres or the rules are, it takes only a couple of laps and he is straight away within a second of the top guys. That?s what he did at the beginning of the Lotus era, too.??

Lotus seem to have have discovered that giving Raikkonen more of the freedom he craves is the key to getting the best out of him.

It’s a significant departure from the norm in F1, which sometimes fails to distinguish between drivers and components. Plug them into cars and they’ll crank out fast laps, drop them into a press conference and they’ll dully recite the corporate line.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Monaco, 2012That approach doesn’t work with Raikkonen and Lotus see the value in giving him a bit more space to be who he wants.

Like when he wanted to wear James Hunt’s helmet at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix – something his former teams wouldn’t countenance:

“The idea was there for many years, but with McLaren and Ferrari, there was no opportunity to use it,” explains his helmet design Uffe Tagtstrom. “Last year it was perfect and the feedback was great too.”

But striking a balance between indulging their driver’s individualism and holding him to the standards expected of a Formula One driver can lead to difficult decisions.

In Brazil Raikkonen decided not to show up at the track on Thursday, mainly a day of preparation and media work. That cost him three days later. Had he joined his rivals in inspecting the track he might have avoided his costly trip down a closed escape road during the race.

He will not be able to afford such a lapse in preparation if he’s still in the running for the title at Interlagos. And if the E21 launched yesterday delivers on Lotus’s expectations, there’s every chance he will be.

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74 comments on How Lotus are getting the best out of Raikkonen

  1. Manchestf1 said on 29th January 2013, 13:28

    great insight from Toni Vilander.

    As i expected, kimi was greatly fed up with the political cultures of the sport, and after jean todt left ferrari, he seems to be happy go lucky until the last season with the team, delvered some podiums and win in a car that the team already given up since germany. His way to call it off with a good ending.

    Glad he found the team that only focus on racing.

  2. victor (@genevene) said on 29th January 2013, 13:29

    Kimi smiles a lot with Lotus. Glad he does, never wanted to see the unmotivated version of Kimi ever again.

  3. Tinash said on 29th January 2013, 13:37

    most driver would look up to Ayrton Senna…

    Kimi is really weird on his admiration for Hunt. Glad the helmet made its debut after finalize it for so long.

    • Senna wasn’t at all cool though, he was political, ruthless and dangerous, whereas Hunt was the ultimate playboy, a cool charachter so it’s easy to see why Kimi would admire Hunt more.

      Sure Senna was fast but that doesn’t mean most drivers look up to him.

    • Gridl0k said on 30th January 2013, 3:21

      If you can’t see the difference between Senna and Hunt or why Kimi might appreciate one over the other you should read some of the stories about JH ;)

    • topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 30th January 2013, 10:28

      I’m not sure that most drivers would cite Senna as their role model. Some, of course: Hamilton, Senna, Massa, maybe Perez and Kobayashi. But Vettel looks up to Schumacher, Button and others to Prost.

  4. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 29th January 2013, 13:48

    That’s what makes him likeable. People like different characters. People like Webber and Raikkonen are in a way different from the rest. Everyone has it’s particularities, but these two stand out a bit more, one with the way he speaks his mind and the other with his attitude towards… well… everything.

  5. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 29th January 2013, 14:06

    I love how McLaren wouldn’t let Kimi use a James Hunt helmet. He drove for McLaren for goodness sake!

    What killjoys.

  6. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 29th January 2013, 14:21

    He smiles a lot which is a good sign. His Christmas video was great and to be fair to Lotus, they seem like a laid back bunch as well, it’s not like their approach has come about anything other than natural.

  7. Nkoli said on 29th January 2013, 14:22

    The only two drivers that I admire in F1 is Kimi and Lewis. These two guys can make those tiny cars go like rockets. I bet we gonna have great races this year between those two, and one of them will be champion.

  8. Magnetism1 said on 29th January 2013, 16:05

    Key to get the best out of Kimi – Leave him alone…..

  9. Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 29th January 2013, 16:49

    Its still really cool that he is staying in F1 and Lotus seem to make him happy. His criticism is underserved from people like Eddie Jordan. Just to throw a question out there, is it fair to say Kimi is along with Hamilton one of the most naturally gifted drivers we have seen?

    • I Love the Pope said on 29th January 2013, 17:19

      Alonso and Vettel are no slouches either. Ol’ Weebs is not bad as well.

    • Magnetism1 said on 29th January 2013, 17:21

      Why not?? this guy doesn’t even work hard, sleep in the garage 30 minutes before the gp, nvr bother about simulators work, track guide etc.

    • Aditya F. Yahya (@adityafakhri) said on 29th January 2013, 17:27

      the old generation always put the bar on Senna. the oldest referenced to Clark and Fangio. but as 2000’s F1 fan, yes. I’d say Raikkonen is the most talented in current grid.

      • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 29th January 2013, 23:16

        I agree, Kimi only had a around 30 races under his belt before joining F1 and was quick from the get go. He may not be ahead of the likes of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton on results (though he could have been were it not for his time off) but he is ahead of them in terms of sheer natural talent. I am glad to see Lotus nurturing that and the results bear out the intelligence of that approach.

      • Roger Camp (@rogercamp) said on 30th January 2013, 15:56

        I’ve always thought that too. I’m a Brazilian and I’m a F1 fan since early 80s. Liked Senna, never liked Rubens and Massa. Besides being a very talented driver, his personality is something that makes him stand out all the others since then.

  10. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 29th January 2013, 17:17

    Everybody seems to love Kimi’s attitude but I’m just going to put this out there, and I might be the only one that thinks this, but I think the guy is just plain rude. His comments on the team radio during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? I tell you something if I was his race engineer I wouldn’t have been very happy with him at all. To me those comments sound very ungrateful, at the end of the day that team employes him, and no matter how fast he is surely he’s got to show some respect. I think he’s lucky that everybody finds his rudeness and supposed ‘personality’ funny and I’m the odd one out. I mean the team even made his comments from that race into t-shirts!? I’m sorry guys I just can’t see the funny side of it.

    • I Love the Pope said on 29th January 2013, 17:21

      I do, mainly because he is the one driving the car and risking his life. They hired him…let him drive.

      That moment made me a fan of Kimi. Prior to that, I was rather indifferent. I have worked with engineers over the years – a smart but sensitive bunch. I’m glad Kimi did what he did. How would you like someone talking in your ear when you’re working?

    • carlos (@mexicof1team) said on 29th January 2013, 17:30


    • andae23 (@andae23) said on 29th January 2013, 17:49

      I find his style of interview rather amusing, but you are right saying that his comments over the radio in Abu Dhabi were rude. I believe reading somewhere that Raikkonen’s radio engineer Simon Rennie left the team because of Raikkonen’s attitude. So with that in my mind, Lotus still went ahead and made T-shirts out of it. If I were Rennie, I would feel humiliated. In my opinion, Raikkonen crosses the line when he insults the people that are helping him, so in that respect I agree with you.

      Continuing on the team’s attitude: they keep making jokes about Raikkonen, i.e. ice cream and indeed his Abu Dhabi radio comments. Apart from irritating me, I didn’t get this as I simply assumed that everyone thought that the joke was becoming outdated. But you just have to go to a random F1-meme blog (loose wheelnut for example) and you find that one out of three posts is Raikkonen related. So apparently there are F1 fans that still think that outdated jokes are hilarious, which is where the Lotus team thrives on.

    • Slr (@slr) said on 29th January 2013, 18:41

      I tell you something if I was his race engineer I wouldn’t have been very happy with him at all.

      Simon Rennie was told by Mark Slade (a man who has worked Raikkonen closely for years) that Raikkonen wouldn’t appreciate being reminded to warm his tyres. Raikkonen obviously felt patronised and because of that, I personally can’t fault his reaction. If Rennie respected Raikkonen’s way of working, then Raikkonen wouldn’t have had to have been blunt with him.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 29th January 2013, 20:40

        Oh, so Rennie had it coming, did he? And that excuses Raikkonen’s blatant rudeness over the radio?

        If Simon Rennie was going to respect Raikkonen’s way of working, is it too much to ask that Raikkonen respect the way Rennie was doing his job, or at least be civil about it?

        • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 29th January 2013, 21:43

          You’ve really got an axe to grind with Riakkonen, don’t ya PM?

        • Slr (@slr) said on 29th January 2013, 22:14

          If Simon Rennie was going to respect Raikkonen’s way of working, is it too much to ask that Raikkonen respect the way Rennie was doing his job, or at least be civil about it?

          Obviously there needs to be a compromise between the driver and the race engineer, however Raikkonen was driving the car at the end of the day. By telling Raikkonen things which were obvious to him, Rennie clearly wasn’t helping his driver in any way, if anything he was telling Raikkonen things which would only have a negative effect on him.

          Regarding the way Raikkonen responded to Rennie, different people have different ways of dealing with those who frustrate them. Some people like to be completely open about how exactly they feel. You may call what Raikkonen did rude, I call it Raikkonen being completely blunt, it’s not like Raikkonen personally insulted Rennie.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 29th January 2013, 23:27


            You may call what Raikkonen did rude, I call it Raikkonen being completely blunt, it’s not like Raikkonen personally insulted Rennie.

            I’ve heard that one of the main reasons why Rennie left Lotus was because he felt he couldn’t work with Raikkonen anymore.

        • Howard (@howard) said on 30th January 2013, 2:41

          So is it too much to ask Rennie to respect the way Kimi works best.
          Let him do what he knows best, there’s no need to annoy him with trivial BS.

    • Yes he was a tad rude but do you really blame him for getting frustrated at someone talking in his ear constantly whilst he was under pressure for the safety car re-start in the lead? He made it clear in a politer way at the first message that he was in control and knew what he was doing; it’s a situation he’s been in many times so he didn’t really need his engineer reminding him.

      • Azwing (@azwing) said on 29th January 2013, 19:20

        This was exactly what I thought, too.

        There are plenty of examples out there of drivers saying essentially the same thing. I don’t have any youtube links handy, but they’re out there. Drivers telling engineers to not talk to them during a corner, etc.

        I also don’t think blunt necessarily equals rude. Kimi got his point across. In a professional situation like that, there isn’t a lot of room for getting your feelings hurt. I’m sure there are plenty of things we never hear that are much worse than what Kimi said.

      • gilles (@gilles) said on 30th January 2013, 11:09

        And Kimi recorded the fastest lap of the race on first lap after restart which I thought was incredible if not unbelievable. So he really didn’t need the reminder alert ’bout keeping temperature in his tires.
        Anyway it is about the differences in people’s way of working. Fernando’s engineer for example constantly reminds him about “traffic light, white line, traffic light, white line” after EVERY pitstop EVERY race. Fernando has no problem with it while Kimi would get ****** off I imagine. Those different approaches are what makes the sport more interesting.

    • F1_Americana (@f1americana) said on 29th January 2013, 20:38

      FWIW, I think Kimi made the “Leave Me Alone…” shirts, and not the Lotus team. I think it was in part to be funny and share the gift of his and Lotus’s victory; but perhaps it was also a bit of an awkward apology from the Finn. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

      Personally, Raikkonen was my hero since his first year with McLaren, and as a father, I always thought of him as someone my son could look up to. But I’ll never forget the day he shoved down a track marshal in frustration in Malaysia 2004 (these guys risk their *lives* so superstar F1 drivers can do what they love — big disgrace in my book), then later pushing down a photographer in 2008 sealed the deal from me. For me, he’s not “so cool” that he can’t be bothered. If anything, those moments show him to be a hot-head; a far cry from the “ice cold” persona that seems to be perpetuated about the man.

      I appreciate the guy’s driving skills, and I do cheer for him quite a bit as he’s a natural racer and an ace of an overtaker, but he’s no one to be looked up to as far as me and my son are concerned. His personality is fun and amusing, but I guess being a dad has changed what I look for in a driver personality-wise. I never really understood the nickname “Ice Man”. Blowing your top and pushing aside a track marshal is a far cry from keeping your cool… Nor is falling face down drunk, or being rude to the media to the point of physical altercations.

      For all the reasons above, and for his never being able to take the fight to Michael Schumacher in his prime and win (though much fault lies with McLaren) were the reasons I switched loyalties to Alonso. And yes, Alonso can be pretty hot-headed himself sometimes, but there is a professionalism there and a desire to be something more than just a race car driver that makes him my (and my son’s) favorite. Just my .02 on a topic I usually get flamed for bringing up.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 29th January 2013, 20:42


      Everybody seems to love Kimi’s attitude but I’m just going to put this out there, and I might be the only one that thinks this, but I think the guy is just plain rude. His comments on the team radio during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? I tell you something if I was his race engineer I wouldn’t have been very happy with him at all.

      No, I’m with you on this one. I do not like Raikkonen’s attitude, and I do not understand why people applaud him for it.

      • F1_Americana (@f1americana) said on 29th January 2013, 21:00


        25 year-old me would have liked his attitude, but the 35 year-old me is not impressed or amused. :)

      • Howard (@howard) said on 30th January 2013, 2:44

        It’s not just Kimi but majority of male finns are like this.

        It’s the male finnish culture, they come off as rude, inconsiderate, bad mannered gronks.

        Alot finnish girls will tell you this as well.

        • andae23 (@andae23) said on 30th January 2013, 8:36

          There is a difference between coming off as ‘rude’ and being rude. We are not talking about the way he comes across when he is giving an interview, this is about his actions: being rude to you radio engineer, knocking down track marshalls, kids photographers. That’s not appearance, that’s behavior.

          • gilles (@gilles) said on 30th January 2013, 11:58

            @andae23 Well with all due respect get your facts right. Kimi never knocked down a marshall (that was James Hunt); his engineers never complained about alleged rudeness, in fact Simon Rennie was defending Kimi and saying that he’s just being finnish – blunt, trying to make a point etc (as seen in official FIA season review 2012); the “kid situation” was him not seeing the kid who was pushed in Kimi’s way by the mother herself and actually when the kid fell, mother left him lying there and crying and still ran after Kimi to get the autograph, so Kimi stopped and told her to take care of her own child; photographer was way out of line and stepping on Kimi’s things so he was pushed back a little and fell cause his feet tangled. In my book Kimi is found not guilty on all accounts :)
            If we want to find a driver who was cocky and rude for the sake of it – Montoya. No one can justify his rudeness to his own team on numerous occasions

        • F1_Americana (@f1americana) said on 30th January 2013, 20:00

          I guess Hakkinen is the exception then? Seems a very polite gentleman to me.

    • Jayfreese (@) said on 29th January 2013, 20:42

      I’m not an english-native speaker, and may be because of that the ‘Raikkonen-gate-radio-affair’ I never thought the guy was rude with somenone.

      I think he just showed Rennie that he knows how F1 works – he’s in since 2001 – he showed he knows what he has to do.

      I’m a long time full-race/season F1 follower and I’m fed up with corporate talks, PR styles drivers.

      I like 22 out of the 22 drivers who’ll be on the grid next year, but when people like Webber or Raikkonen talk I can only trust them, which is good.

    • joolsy (@joolsy) said on 30th January 2013, 0:35

      I don’t think he was being rude as you have to understand the Finnish mentality.They don’t really use words like please and thank you because for them politeness isn’t something that has to be reinforced at every turn , in my experience of working in finland they seem very blunt and not very friendly but that is the finnish way.It was wrongly reported by quite a few media outlets that the team made the T-shirts , the fact is Kimi made them himself for the entire Lotus team.

    • Roger Camp (@rogercamp) said on 30th January 2013, 16:21

      I agree with you 100% gilles. I’ve seen all those videos and it’s clear that Kimi was that rude. About the the photographer, sure he was upset, but it was meant just to push him away as he was stepping on his stuff. It was sad that he fell, but it was more of an accident.

  11. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 29th January 2013, 19:11

    Ok let me put it this way, could you imagine Fernando saying something like this to Stella or Seb saying something like that to Rocky? Absolutely not, it would be shocking, it would be seen as a complete disrespect towards the team. I think Kimi gets away with just because it’s Kimi.

    • Slr (@slr) said on 29th January 2013, 20:25

      There have been occasions when Alonso has told his race engineer to shut up and people just laughed it off. Raikkonen does not get away with telling his race engineer to be quiet, just because it is him.

    • I Love the Pope said on 30th January 2013, 5:30

      It is not like Lotus fired him for it. In other words, they don’t think it meant what you think it meant.

      *Princess Bride*

  12. At this very moment I’m wearing my “LEAVE ME ALONE” t-shirt I designed with the Iceman logo
    The only driver I would like to see champion other than Vettel is Kimi, I can’t wait for ROUND 1 Melbourne!

  13. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 29th January 2013, 20:37

    By giving Raikkonen more of the freedoms he missed at McLaren and Ferrari, Lotus have brought out the best in the 2007 champion.

    And by giving him conservative strategies because they were unwilling to risk their current position for the sake of a better one, Lotus cost him about four wins. On the rare occasion when they did give him an interesting strategy – like in Hungary – Raikkonen demonstrated that he was not going to fumble the ball, which makes their strategy decisions all the more bizarre.

  14. Kohem (@kohem) said on 29th January 2013, 21:57

    Kimi is just typical Finn. Almost all Finnish men´s are like Kimi. They do not want to hold talks with strangers. Also they do not want to be the center of things, even if they have done something remarkable, rather they give the glory to others, they just want to enjoy what gets the job done. Work and the achievements they enjoy only with the closest friends and family. They do not enjoy the publicity, but on the contrary. Traditional Finnish also drink really hard. Usually lasting for weeks. Yet, they go to work and take care of what they are doing with great care.

    Sorry my bad English, Im Finnish :)

  15. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 29th January 2013, 23:29

    Kimi’s certainly a unique character, and I love having him in the sport for many reasons (his personality being one) and even though Lotus have done well to give him the autonomy he needs there are still several downsides to how he approaches F1. As stated in the article, Lotus have struggled to get him to do track inspections that have possibly cost him points in Brazil. Furthermore if I recall correctly Lotus had a tough job getting the feedback from him that was necessary to adjust his steering the way he wants it early in 2012. Maybe if he was a better communicator the steering issue would have been fixed before Monaco and Kimi could have lived up to the car’s potential there.

    I think Lotus have looked at how gifted Kimi is despite his flaws and decided that he’s still a world class talent. Talent isn’t in question with Raikkonen, but if he was able to keep his speed and work as closely with the team as the likes of Alonso, Button and Vettel do, would Kimi have multiple championships by now (even with the 2003/05 near misses)? I think so.

    • Magnetism1 said on 29th January 2013, 23:37

      On the power steering part, mark slade claimed that the team lack resource to fix it….not kimi fault. That article was denied by Alan Permane as foolish joke.

    • Candice said on 29th January 2013, 23:38

      I nvr knew talent can fix engine and car blowing up…

      He did absolutely everything he could in 03 and 05. Particularly with 03 when he was driving a 2002 spec mclaren after the failed introduction of mp4-18.

      • Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 30th January 2013, 0:53

        Apologies if I didn’t explain myself clearly with reference to 2003 and 2005, I was saying that he has had the talent to win multiple championships even if you remove those two near misses which were outside his control.

        I’m suggesting that if his attitude or approach was better, could he have won in, say, 2008?

        • Candice said on 30th January 2013, 4:34

          LOL, Peter Windsor said that Kimi once told him how much he hates F1 and he will quit after winning 1 title………..He’s true to his word. I guess the detour made him realize that he really miss F1 and regain the passion for racing…..

          • Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 30th January 2013, 11:14

            That’s the kind of attitude Raikkonen has that I think has held him back in his career. His dislike of other areas of the sport such as technical feedback, working with the team, PR commitments ect has probably had a negative effect on how his career has panned out.

            I like Raikkonen as he’s an immense talent and a character, but it can be difficult to sympathise with a multi-millionaire sportsman who has such disdain for other parts of his job as a driver. If Senna, Schumacher and most of the other current successful drivers have shown one thing it’s that being a truly great F1 driver is far more than turning up and jumping in the car.

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