The Iceman leaveth: Raikkonen’s Lotus career in pictures

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Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Yas Marina, 2012Kimi Raikkonen’s Formula One comeback with Lotus has come to a disappointing end two races early.

But Raikkonen’s return to the sport with Lotus has been a clear success, including two grand prix victories and a record-breaking run of points finishes.

As Renault, Lotus had suffered a poor 2011 season, due in part to losing lead driver Robert Kubica during the off-season due to injury. After scoring podiums in the opening two races of the year they never troubled the top three again as their radical front-exiting exhausts failed to deliver the expected gains in performance.

For 2012 the newly-renamed Lotus team tempted Raikkonen back from a two-year sabbatical to fill the hole left by Kubica’s absence. It quickly proved to be a productive relationship.

Results didn’t come immediately: Raikkonen was eliminated in Q1 in his comeback at Melbourne and dropped out of the points with degrading tyres in China. But at the very next race he pushed Sebastian Vettel hard for victory and took second – the first podium since his return. Remarkably, it began a record-breaking run of 27 consecutive points finishes.

Consistent points-scoring kept Raikkonen in the hunt for the title against better-equipped rivals such as Vettel. All that was missing was a comeback victory and in Abu Dhabi it finally arrived.

Raikkonen was poised to pounce when trouble struck race leader Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages. After brushing aside the warnings of his race engineer to preserve his car with the immediately immortalised words “I know what I’m doing”, Raikkonen kept Fernando Alonso back to score the first win for a car bearing the name Lotus in 25 years.

He began his second season with the team on a similar high, winning again in Australia. Lotus’s championship chances looked very promising in the opening weeks of the championship as teams came to terms with Pirelli’s most aggressive generation of tyres. The E21 proved especially kind to them, but as the season progressed and their rivals grew more familiar with the tyres, Lotus’s edge gradually diminished, and they haven’t won another race since.

The mid-season change to a more conservative tyre construction on safety grounds did not aid their cause, particularly in the case of Raikkonen, who was doubly stung by new restrictions on camber and other tyre set-up variables. His increasingly confident team mate Romain Grosjean grew more threatening, particularly in Korea, where Raikkonen produced an inspired and opportunistic pass to take second place off the other Lotus.

Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Korea International Circuit, 2013But what ultimately drove Raikkonen from the team was not performance but money. He admitted as much after his return to Ferrari in 2014 was announced, and on the Abu Dhabi race weekend revealed he had received no money from the team all year.

Frustrations had come to the surface in India where Raikkonen, increasingly troubled by his tyres, was slow to respond to his team’s instructions to let Grosjean through and forced his team mate off the road at one point.

Angry words were exchanged on the radio for which Lotus later apologised. That seemed a surprising step at the time as it’s not unusual for emotions to run high on the team radio, nor for colourful language to be employed. Once the context of Raikkonen’s payment shortfall was known Lotus’s eagerness to placate their driver made rather more sense.

Abu Dhabi, the scene of their shared victory 12 months earlier, turned out to be Raikkonen’s final race weekend for Lotus. It was an unmitigated disaster.

Raikkonen was thrown out of qualifying due to a technical infringement, one the team had fallen foul of previously with Grosjean’s car, but which the stewards were unwilling to tolerate a repeat of. Having chosen to start at the back of the grid rather from the pits, Raikkonen’s race ended when he nudged Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham at the first corner, breaking his suspension.

One week later Lotus confirmed his time with them was at an end, citing a need for Raikkonen to undergo back surgery before beginning his 2014 campaign with Ferrari. Under the circumstances it’s not surprising many have seen an element of convenience in the timing of the news, though Raikkonen did suffer back pain during the Singapore race weekend.

Raikkonen and Lotus always seemed well suited to each other. They understood his preference to turn up, drive and then leave, and accommodated it as far as was practical. The team’s irreverent social media presence perfected the art of bringing humour to anything involving their undemonstrative yet hero-worshipped star.

Whether Ferrari have taken note and are prepared to take the same approach to tease the best out of Raikkonen will be a fascinating storyline in 2014.

Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus, 2012-13 in pictures

2013 F1 season

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Images ?é?® Lotus/LAT, GP3/LAT, Korean GP/Sutton, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, MMP74

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47 comments on The Iceman leaveth: Raikkonen’s Lotus career in pictures

  1. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 12th November 2013, 17:07

    Kimi Raikkonen has beaten the odds twice with his entry into F1 and again with his re-entry. Skeptics said he was too inexperienced before his initial foray and some said on his return that comebacks don’t usually pan out. In both cases conventional wisdom might usually prevail, but Raikkonen proved to be unconventional in multiple ways. First and foremost, he is a winner and very consistent points scorer. His iceman persona aside, he may be different personality wise than other F1 drivers, but those who know him say he is a warm engaging person. In any case, his on track performance ranks him among the best F1 drivers of all time and many teams would still be happy to have a driver of his calibre on board. F1 as a sport has benefitted from his presence.

    Nice tribute in photos @keithcollantine . Hope to see more from Kimi in 2014 and beyond.

  2. Patrick (@paeschli) said on 12th November 2013, 20:33

    Btw, it is confirmed the Hulk will not race for Lotus this weekend :(

  3. Dan (@danieru) said on 12th November 2013, 21:04

    It is a sad end to what has been a really great 2 season partnership. Back in January 2012. I wasn’t convinced Raikkonen would perform that well nor that Lotus would provide him with that great a car but it’s been a brilliant partnership even though they should have perhaps won a few more races had Lotus been smarter on strategy and Kimi qualified better (Bahrain and Hungary last year as well as Germany this year spring to mind).

    I don’t think either have come out this ending well though…

    Lotus do remind me of a football club that have over-spent on players and then discovered they don’t have the financials to commit to their contractual obligations – Raikkonen has been the primary reason (together with Allison-designed chassis) the team have got the profile and the results over the past two years so there is an element of feeling like they’ve taken one of their primary assets for bit of a ride. No top-line driver I can think of would have put up with it either. I don’t think the India radio messages were that big a deal but the rumours that Kimi was accused of not being a team man by the race team were a bit out of order given his performances over the past two years.

    Kimi meanwhile I think could have handled post-India so much better too. Given his name is the Iceman, there was something a bit hysterical about his threat to not race and airing his dirty laundry in public. It is blatantly obvious too that he’s decided to have an operation early as he’s annoyed with the team. I find it all a bit Diva-ish, especially given that he wasn’t paid until the end of the season last year either.

    I think both will be weaker next year too – Lotus will miss Raikkonen’s consistency (yes Grosjean looks good now but next year he will be EXPECTED to beat his team-mate and lead the team and do so consistently. His whole career has shown he is gifted, fast but bit of a win it or bin it racer).

    Raikkonen meanwhile will have a shock next year against Alonso – yes he will beat him on occasion but I think Fernando’s relentlessness in races and work ethic in general will see him defeated. I see shades of Prost v Mansell in 1990 here. Closely matched on speed but Prost’s intelligence (and being prepared to work with his engineers whilst Mansell was off playing golf!) meant he won easily.

    • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 12th November 2013, 23:38

      @danieru – I agree that the partnership came to a sad end for what was mostly a successful endeavor. Probably one reason Kimi decided to go public with the finances is that last year he was still signed with Lotus and now for next year he is not. Also, the financial situation at Lotus seems more uncertain now. We still don’t know if he will be paid and he like;y figured after the season there would be no leverage short of a possibly fruitless lawsuit. I think the unprofessional cursing over the radio by Permane, an upper level manager, and Kimi’s reaction to it showed that Kimi is indeed human. It was demoralizing when Kimi has 2 wins, 27 consecutive point scoring races at a stretch, the majority of points scored for Lotus over the last two seasons and yet not been paid anything for this season, to be publicly humiliated like that. The iceman persona notwithstanding, everyone has a breaking point.

      My anticipation of the matchup between Alonso and Raikkonen for 2014 is palpable. It has the kind of legendary possibilities that do not come our way often enough in F1. Many feel that Raikkonen will be “shocked” by Alonso, but we don’t really know. That is what makes it fascinating to watch and see what develops. Kimi may surprise some people, we shall see. My hope is mostly for the Ferrari to be competitive next season and then to watch the drama unfold.

  4. Thanks for a very balanced iceman-article @keithcollantine. Honestly I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, considering your previously stated distaste. Great point about Lotus managing to inspire the rather laid back Finn through humor, and whether Ferrari will have learned anything from that.

    The only thing I might have added would maybe be the low-hanging Lotus during practice as the reason for the back injury to break up again in the first place.

    Looking forward to see Kimi in equipment equal to Akibisi’s – a lot more so than “back at Ferrari” of whom I have never been much of a fan.

    For me personally 2014 will be rather special as it will mark the first season in several years in which I can fully appreciate more than one driver.

  5. James Walker said on 14th November 2013, 4:28

    Raikkonen and Lotus always seemed well suited to each other. They understood his preference to turn up, drive and then leave, and accommodated it as far as was practical. The team’s irreverent social media presence perfected the art of bringing humour to anything involving their undemonstrative yet hero-worshipped star.
    Very well said! I am an American who loves F1, and Lotus’s presence on the web should be a model. I like Kimi but am amazed at what he gets away with in terms of avoiding media days. That Lotus tolerated it and found a way around it through their social media is genius.

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