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.

2013 F1 season

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

  1. It’s really funny how many people “take offense” at Kimi’s comments during Abu Dhabi. I thought, as many other people do, that his comments were funny and rather a breath of fresh air…

    Don’t the words, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” have any meaning left?

    The team scored a good win and some very positive publicity. Including the T-Shirts that Kimi made for the team just made it even more memorable… To get offended by that is just plain childish.

    My two cents.

  2. TMF (@tmf42) said on 30th January 2013, 6:59

    was thinking the same last year at Bahrain – Lotus understands that he isn’t a publicist’s dream but they embrace his character rather than trying to change him or the public perception. and frankly Lotus wouldn’t be very popular today if it weren’t for his tremendous comeback season with a few original Kimi’s on the team radio.

  3. Dr. Jekyll (@dr-jekyll) said on 30th January 2013, 7:31

    I would have to afree with some posters that Lotus with cowardly tactics and medioker if not worse pit stops and strategies have let Kimi’s potential in 2012 down.
    I undestand why though… I know that a win is worth much, but for a big part of the season, I’m sure, team Lotus were over the moon about getting podiums and being regularly in top fights. Being bold and risk taking in those moments when the experience was a bit unexpected was just not “worth it” in their business oriented minds (especially since it backfired the one time they tried early in the season).
    Perhaps this season, more longshots and risk taking will be possible since their expectations will be higher from car, team and Kimi!
    Regarding people saying how rude the “leave me alone” comment was, you seriously haven’t been to Finland or talked to finnish people… There are people of all kinds but in my opinion the finns are a few worded and honest, so to consider an honest, few worded, and a bit blunt answer as rude is rude in itself!
    it’s almost cultural…
    I should know, being the finns gentle cousin, a swede… ;)

  4. Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 30th January 2013, 8:35

    What’s not to say Rennie had already announced he was leaving the team or like all these “I heard that” or “he said, she said” comments being thrown around, Kimi had heard Rennie was leaving. Does that change the perspective? Generally drivers and engineers have a relationship, good or bad who are we to judge that? Put yourself in the lead sitting in a position you’ve been in many times before focusing on getting your and the teams first win in years, to me it would be like the wife nagging, “you’re not on F1Fanatic AGAIN are you?” “Don’t forget to sign in or people won’t know who you are”.

  5. Shimks (@shimks) said on 30th January 2013, 15:09

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Raikkonen take the 2013 driver’s championship. He was 3rd in the championship last year, 3 race wins behind Vettel and Alonso.

    I predict that if he does win it, he’ll be bored again in 2014 with little motivation. I don’t think he’s the win-as-many-consecutive-titles-as-possible type; I think he’s more the been-there-done-that type.

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