Will Lotus errors drive Raikkonen to Red Bull?

2013 F1 season

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Nurburgring, 2013It’s no secret that Kimi Raikkonen is the shortlist to replace the departing Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014.

Lotus will be anxious not to see the 2007 champion go. Since his return to F1 last year Raikkonen has scored in all bar one of his races for them, claiming more than 70% of the points scored by the team.

But at this sensitive stage in deliberations over next year, Lotus have made some crucial errors where it matters most – on the track.

The Raikkonen-Lotus partnership began the year on a high, using the E21 chassis’s kindness to its tyres to excellent effect in Melbourne, where they won. But as the season has progressed the team’s strategic decisions have come under scrutiny:

Australia

Lotus ran a two-stop strategy for Raikkonen which helped him move ahead of his three-stopping rivals to start the year with a win.

Malaysia

In a rain-hit Q3, drivers who took a fresh set of intermediate tyres headed the field. Lotus got the call right but Raikkonen only manages seventh on the grid. He then received a grid penalty for impeding Nico Rosberg and finished the race seventh.

Bahrain

A two-stop strategy paid dividends again for Raikkonen, lifting him from eighth to second.

Spain

The team played to their car’s strength again by making one stop fewer than eventual winner Alonso. But Raikkonen lost time in traffic and, as in Malaysia, the team’s quickest pit stop was over a second slower than the best.

Canada

A race riddled with problems for Raikkonen: a two-place grid penalty was his fault but brake trouble, high fuel consumption and a slow pit stop were not. He finished tenth.

Britain

Lost a place to Alonso at the first round of pit stops but the real damage was done during the final Safety Car period. Lotus missed the chance to bring Raikkonen in for fresh tyres which left him vulnerable to those who had come in. He fell from second to fifth in the closing laps.

Germany

While Grosjean eked out 13 laps on his soft tyres at the start, Raikkonen pitted five laps earlier and fell into traffic. The Safety Car allowed him to regain lost ground, but a late pit stop saw him surrender the lead to Vettel, and although Lotus waved him past Grosjean (for the second race in a row) he was unable to catch the Red Bull. Strategic decision-making was clearly hampered by a radio communication problem.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Silverstone, 2013The slip-up at Silverstone was one of the costlier errors but team principal Eric Boullier said it was unlikely to be a deal-breaker when it comes to securing Raikkonen’s services for next year: “Kimi?s an intelligent guy and he won?t let a single pit stop call define a decision like where to drive for 2014.”

But looking back over the last three races it’s clear Raikkonen has more missed opportunities to reflect on than just a single strategy decision.

One week later at the Nurburgring Raikkonen questioned whether the team had done the right thing by pitting him in the closing stages. “I?m wondering if we should have done it,” he said after the race, “take a gamble and try to go to the end because the tyres were pretty OK, my speed was pretty OK so it was hard to know what happens in the next ten laps.”

However Lotus are “very comfortable” that bringing Raikkonen in was the right thing to do, as trackside operations director Alam Permane explains: “It?s very clear from our simulations that ?ǣ had his tyre degradation level continued at a steady rate ?ǣ [Vettel] would have quite easily been able to reel him in.

“While we are in no doubt about that, what is questionable is what would have happened if the degradation level had increased towards the end of the race. This was certainly the case for a number of other drivers who opted for that strategy, who we then saw being passed quite easily in the latter stages; something that would likely have happened to Kimi and subsequently dropped him back to fourth behind Fernando [Alonso] rather than a comfortable second with a fighting chance of victory.”

It matters as much whether they got the call right as whether Raikkonen has full confidence in the decisions they are making. Clearly it was playing on his mind after the race.

He has several factors to weigh when deciding his destination for 2014. Does he want to go up against a triple – potentially quadruple – world champion? Which team is the best bet to produce a winning car for next year’s regulations? Who will do more to accommodate his intolerance of PR work?

Events on the track will play a part as well, so Lotus’s recent troubles could not have come at a worse time.

2013 F1 season


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89 comments on Will Lotus errors drive Raikkonen to Red Bull?

  1. Sumedh said on 23rd July 2013, 22:23

    I wish Kimi moves to Red Bull. That way, we can really find out if he is really good. After all, Vettel would be his first truly world class team mate then.

  2. Kimi4WDC said on 24th July 2013, 0:54

    I know the same can be applied to other contenders, but if Lotus did not constantly screwed up the pit-wall calls during 2012 – Raikkonen funnily could have been right there in Brazil and even win it.

    Not much changed this time around.

    On a bright note, last year Hungary was finally a strategic master-piece from Lotus (well, Kimi had to perform his miracle too) compare rest of the season.

    I hope he joins RB. Lotus keeps on doing same mistakes, the fact that their pit-stop times did not improve in other a year and the treatment of “The Device” misshap just shows that they are playing lottery rather than incremental improvement like a top team should.

  3. arki19 said on 24th July 2013, 0:56

    I can’t decide between KR and DR. On the one handit would be great to see Vettel head to head with a recognized champ, even if it was just to shut up everyone who thinks his driving acumen has never really been tested. On the other Daniel is so enthusiastic and thoroughly likable; how could you not wish him a chance to show what he has got?
    If either candidate has talked to Mark Webber, I can only imagine what he has advised. RBR have let him down on so many occasions; why oh why for example, do the pit crew excel on Vettels pit stops only to drop the ball (albeit ubconciously) when it comes to Webber. And, more to the point, would the aura of KR or DR be enough to prevent this happening in the future and truly give the candidate the same sort of focus they give to Sebastian?

    • Shena (@shena) said on 24th July 2013, 3:31

      Off the top of my head, 2012 Brazil – the championship decider, 2011 Monaco, 2011 Silverstone… let alone all sorts of race ending mechanical problems. People tend to forget when things happen to Seb then make a big deal out of every issue when it comes to Mark.

  4. Shena (@shena) said on 24th July 2013, 3:10

    Speaking of marketability, does anyone else think there’s a fair chance of RBR’s popularity going south with Seb-Kimi pair? Even these days there are some conspiracists who believe Lotus are making strategic blunders on purpose to reduce Kimi’s championship point based bonus. The majority of Kimi fans seem firm believers of Ferrari sabotaging Kimi theory. If Kimi doesn’t perform well enough for whatever reasons in Red Bull, I’m not too sure Kimi’s presence in the team would bring the much expected popularity to them. I admit that it’s a crazy/wild guess though.

    • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 24th July 2013, 4:18

      “conspiracists” being the key word there.

      Would not Lotus be reducing their own points if they were reducing Kimi’s?

      Sounds wackadoo to me.

      • Shena (@shena) said on 24th July 2013, 4:35

        @bullmello I’ve also seen plenty of times Lotus were accused for favoring Romain, because Bullier is his manager. It’s ridiculous but its absurdity doesn’t stop them from imagining things, does it? The same can be applied to Webber-RBR story. According to them RBR must enjoy throwing away points and money.

        • No confest said on 24th July 2013, 10:08

          Speaking of marketability and conspiracies, Vettel may be popular in Germany, but Kimi is much more popular everywhere else, and if RB really just wanted to increase their popularity, all they would need to do is to give Kimi a WDC and humiliate Seb a bit.

    • Angelia (@angelia) said on 25th July 2013, 9:13

      Where is these conspiracy theorists? The only conspiracy theorists I see is those who doesn’t like Kimi, who thinks up conspiracy theories for his fans.

      Red Bull might be top team but they certainly are not very popular, a lot of other teams are more popular. Interest and anything that gets people talking generates publicity. Red Bull are there to sell energy drinks, they need popularity more then winning. Winning alone isn’t making the team popular.

  5. Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 24th July 2013, 12:56

    Red Bull aren’t exactly error-free either. They’ve made costly pit mistakes on Webber’s car in two races already this season.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th July 2013, 12:13

      which is pretty significant, because its clear from the last couple of years that they have had a bit of an issue giving both cars the same level of service.

  6. marcoduf (@marcoduf) said on 24th July 2013, 15:17

    Interesting article as always, albeit slightly wrongly titled – the question isn’t about Lotus’s mistakes, but rather will Kimi move to RB and will RB offer Kimi a seat.

    The young driver program aside, the news came from Horner and came unilateraly – suggesting the third fastest driver of this year should join RB. Smells more like a pressure move on Kimi and his entourage (even the guys at Lotus) rather than a serious move to get him onboard in 2014.

    I mean, how many times has a team leader made a statement in the press about a candidate he wanted to recruit then followed up on it, rather than signing a pilot from another team THEN announcing it to the press?

  7. Lindsay9876 (@lindsay9876) said on 24th July 2013, 23:36

    What red Bull will also be mindful of is that if they sign Kimi and Ricciardo is out of contract then he may well end up at Ferrari. A fast Italian(ish) driver will be PR gold for them and in a couple of years could make them look very silly whn Kimi is retired.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th July 2013, 12:18

      I think you are VERY far off the mark there @lindsay9876.
      Firs off all, with all the Red Bull young driver program contracts, its hugely doubtful that Ricciardo would in fact be out of contract and free to move to Ferrari (they could just keep him at STR another year).
      And as for Ferrari actually wanting him, what makes you think they would go for Ricciardo over available highly rated drivers like Nico Hulkenberg, or Ferrari young driver program guy Jules Bianchi? Or even Kobayashi for that matter. And there is the matter of Ferrari being not unlikely to stay with their current line-up for another year

      Being Italian is not of any advantage for Ferrari, it might even be deemed a bit of a disadvantage (they really do not need more popularity in Italy, how much higher can they actually go?)

  8. BrendanH (@brendanh) said on 25th July 2013, 0:02

    Just a couple of points: 1. Regarding Ricciardo and his points. If STR had not made an awful hash of his Silverstone race, Riccardo would have come in 5th, or possibly 4th. That, coupled with his qualifying was obvious to RBR. 2. If you think RBR don’t make errors, think again. Cast your mind back to two lost wheels this year for Webber and a couple of times running out of fuel in Qualifying, if memory serves, once for Vettel and once for Webber. There is no doubt that RBR are the slickest in the paddock and Vettel does seem to have incredible luck with reliability, but as a number 2 to Vettel, I don’t think you would receive the same level as priority at RBR.

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