Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2017

Analysis: Raikkonen’s poor season is great for Vettel’s title chances

2017 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

During the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend Kimi Raikkonen shed some useful light on how Ferrari intends to play the team orders game this year.

The team’s approach has varied in past seasons. In Raikkonen’s first spell at Ferrari he and team mate Felipe Massa were only required to move over for the other once they were mathematically out of championship contention. And they did: Massa helped Raikkonen to win the title in 2007 and Raikkonen paid him back the following year, though Massa missed out on the crown.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2017
Bottas has taken points off Hamilton
Two years later, after Raikkonen had left, it was different. Massa was ordered to let Fernando Alonso even when he was still mathematically capable of winning the championship.

According to Raikkonen, that is not the case this year. “When I don’t have a chance mathematically any more to fight for the championship for sure I will help,” he said in Baku. So Sebastian Vettel can forget about his team mate sacrificing a win for him until Raikkonen’s title hopes are finished.

Ferrari’s refusal to move Vettel aside in Hungary, as his hobbled car backed Raikkonen into the pursuing Mercedes, could be taken as a sign they are giving favourable treatment to their strongest championship contender. Particularly as Raikkonen was not allowed to run long in his stint and jump his team mate, as Vettel had done to him in Monaco.

Still the fact remains they have not yet resorted to the ultimate in team orders: Telling one driver to sacrifice a higher finishing position for the other solely because of the championship situation. Nor have they had the opportunity, for that matter.

The same goes for Mercedes. But there is a crucial difference: Raikkonen is likely to be out of championship contention far sooner than either of the Mercedes drivers. This is good news for Vettel’s championship chances.

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Vettel has scored 202 points so far this year to Raikkonen’s 116. Hamilton leads Valtteri Bottas by 188 to 169 – clearly a much closer contest.

Unless there is a drastic change in form on the other side of the summer break, Raikkonen will become unable to beat Vettel in the championship several races before Bottas will be unable to beat Hamilton. We can get a rough idea of when that might be simply by looking at the trends in their points scores so far:

At the current rate, Vettel could get full ‘number one’ status three races before Hamilton. But of course this can change quickly: Bottas could pass Hamilton in the championship at the next round. And reminder that the identity of the championship leader could change, which would alter the arithmetic of which driver gets full ‘number one’ status first.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Bottas caused problems for Vettel in Spain
The usefulness of having a true ‘number two’ team mate shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s not something which has figured in the past three seasons as the championship has been a Mercedes-only affair.

With overtaking so difficult this year and the value of track position so high, it’s not hard to see how useful having a dedicated ‘number two’ could be to delay the opposition at a crucial moment. Mercedes were able to use Bottas this way in Spain largely because of the way the cards fell in the race.

Vettel heads into the second half of the season knowing he has the championship lead but a car which is potentially slower on the majority of the remaining tracks. He’s had a few weeks to contemplate how best to employ his team mate when the time comes. Expect him to exploit the advantage to its fullest.

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  • 22 comments on “Analysis: Raikkonen’s poor season is great for Vettel’s title chances”

    1. I would love a double DNF for Hamilton & Vettel at Spa…It would create a whole different championship,it would spice things to a much bigger extent!This season somehow reminds me of 2007-2008,although it lacks the “unexpected factor” & a DNF for the 2 championship leaders would create a positive mess!As for Kimi himself,he wont be in the championship hunt whatever happens to the leaders.He hasnt been strong & his only good showing was Monaco & Silverstone.He had atleast 5 race weekends where he was off the pace without any good reason…He is 86 points behind,so his chances are really small.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        21st August 2017, 16:14

        It is true that Hamilton has probably suffered a similar amount of bad luck as Bottas this season, but in terms of reliability problems during the race, Bottas has certainly been worse off. I understand Hamilton did very likely have 15 points taken away from him in Baku but I still don’t think that is as unlucky as having 1 more retirement than your team mate. So yes, it would indeed make it very interesting if Vettel and Hamilton have some reliability issues that ncause a retirement during one of the races and that would about even them out. I think Bottas has looked a little further behind Vettel than many think due to his retirement in Spain.

        1. Agreed

        2. @thegianthogweed It is worth pointing out that Hamilton and Bottas are point loss due to car issues is comparable at 13 and 15 respectively, even considering a DNF appears worse. Bottas’ car failing from 3rd cost him 15 points and and Hamilton dropping from 1st to 4th with the head-rest issue cost him 13, Bottas would be 17 rather than 19 points behind.

    2. I believe in 2007 the Ferrari driver who was ahead in the championship after the Italian Grand Prix would get preferable treatment. Up to that race Massa was leading Räikkönen by one point, but he retired in the race, while Räikkönen finished 3rd behind the McLarens. So after that race Räikkönen essentially became the number 1 Ferrari driver. However, Massa still had a mathematical chance to win the title at that point.

    3. “Räikkönen’s poor season”? In the softly spoken words of the Virgin Mary – “Come again?”

      First, Ferrari have carefully managed their pit stops so that Vettel could overcut Räikkönen in Monaco and in Hungary made certain Kimi could not. That’s two races Kimi would have won, so Vettel -14, Kimi +14

      Second, Kimi was taken out by Bottas in Spain (together with Verstappen) when he was on the point of taking third from him. There Kimi lost a potential 15 points.

      Third, in Buku Kimi was on the point of completing a successful overtake on Bottas when in desperation the latter cut across the kerbs taking Kimi out. As that race panned out, Kimi would have won were it not for Bottas.

      Add this up and the scores could have been Vettel 188, Hamilton 186, Bottas 179 (+10 pts in Spain), Räikkönen 170. In no way can you argue that Ferrari team orders and the shortcomings of Valtteri Bottas are proof of Kimi Räikkönen having “a poor season”.

      1. No F1 driver had ever had a troublefree season & in your comment,you use perfect scenarios for Kimi & he was still 18 points behind…We can agree that he could have won in Monaco,as Ferrari didnt follow the same strategy for both drivers,but in Hungary he couldnt have been challenging Vettel in the first place, if Vettel hadnt had his steering issues.He was unlucky with Bottas’s contact’s but they were racing incidents & they weren’t desperate moves…As for Baku,it was a crazy race & we will never know what would have happened.If they hadnt crashed,then Bottas would have won driving in the fastest car & not Kimi…

      2. Here’s another hypothetical situation to add to your list. Maybe if Kimi had out-qualified Vettel in all those races (bar one), he wouldn’t have been in the position to be hit by Bottas or get stuck behind Vettel.

      3. Kimi has underperformed ever since he won the drivers’ championship in 2007.

        1. Unfortunately, you’re right. I’m a Kimi fan and he USED to be my favourite driver some time back……but he just hasn’t had the fire that he had from 2002 – 2007.

      4. Very much true. In addition of being a victim of Bottas’ antics twice, Kimi has also had more technical problems than anyone else in the championship hunt: in China, Canada and Austria Kimi had an issue with his car which affected his race pace.
        Kimi has been solid this season. Not as good as he was last year, but definitely better than what F1Fanatics tend to say. Championship table doesn’t tell the whole story.

      5. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        21st August 2017, 16:41

        You really don’t seem to have watched Baku very carefully.
        The first corner incident affected Bottas at that moment in time much more than Kimi and the stewards said that they were equally to blame. Kimi lost 2 places after the impact and Bottas lost 18. So at the time it happened, Bottas was the most unlucky of the 2 as he fell a lap down. And it wasn’t related to the incident with Bottas at all that Kimi got damage from the Force India’s later on. If you read the stwerds reasoning as to why they were both 50% to blame, it was because Kimi attempted a speculative pass on Bottas. Many people seem to take the meaning of this word as something different. But it means a high risk or loss. They maybe thought Kimi shouldn’t have taken a risk there. He wasn’t exactly completing a successful overtake if this is the stewards verdict on things.

        This was their description:

        The stewards examined video evidence and considered that car seven [Raikkonen] was making a speculative pass on the outside of car 77 [Bottas] in turn two and that car 77 hit the kerb and was pushed wide into car seven,” they noted. “The stewards determined that no driver was wholly or predominately to blame for the collision.”

        Quoted from here:

        Even in Spain, it was a racing incident and because Verstappen was on the outside, Kimi couldn’t have gone any wider. Yes, Bottas didn’t need to brake as early as he did, but there was nothing wrong with him doing this as the others could have avoided doing what they did too. Verstappen and Kimi didn’t both need to pull alongside Bottas at the same time leaving no room. Bottas did admit he could have done a better job but none of the drivers really blamed each other and it was simply another racing incident. All drivers played a part in this incident. Kimi has been unlucky this season and I don’t think he’s as bad as many are making out. He looked a little better than Vettel in Monaco and also in Silverstone but other than that, Vettel has been much better.

      6. Henrik? Ferrari have never managed anything carefully, ever.

        1. Sorry, but none of you get the point – Kimi has not had a poor season. It would appear that Ferrari are of the same opinion as they’ve signed him for 2018, something they would not have done had he truly had a bad season.

      7. This is F1F mate, practically the official Vettel fan page. No matter how often he gets shown up to be average (despite MUH STATS).

        Keith must be chuffed his reputation gets shielded for another year while Kimi gets No.2 status again, in all but name.

    4. That’s one angle and it makes sense, to a certain point. Another angle is how many times has Kimi slotted between Seb and Lewis, stopping the latter from scoring more points. Only twice, while Valterri took more points from Seb.
      And looking at how Ferrari deals with this; Seb is already number one, and does not need to wait for the last 4 or 5 races to become one. So ideally, Seb would stay number one while Kimi ups his game and slots higher than Valterri or Lewis.

      Another angle is Valterri being able to help Lewis as he’s more up there or thereabouts, while Kimi has faded many times this season. So Seb might call on his team mate, without much response. While Lewis can rely more on Valterri’s competitiveness; as for example Austria’s scenario. Only the Finn can be, sometimes, better than the Brit.

      If I’m Seb, I would prefer a slightly better Kimi. If I’m Lewis, I’d prefer a slightly worse Valterri. But these wishes are comical and at the end of the day; it’s in the hands of the top two drivers first and foremost.

    5. But is Raikkonen not being as competitive a teammate as Bottas really helping Vettel? Had Bottas not been around at all, Hamilton would be better off in the championship by 13 points. Vettel would stand to gain 22 points, so proving that Bottas being competitive actually helps Hamilton more in this instance. Had the same been true of Raikkonen, Vettel would be 2 points better off, while Hamilton will be 8 points better off, benefiting Vettel more, but not as much as Bottas does to Hamilton. So it appears that if Vettel could actually have benefitted more with having a more competitive teammate. However, on the other hand, he may have lost Monaco.

      1. I was going to make the same point. Vettel’s title chances would be better if Kimi was more competitive. Bottas has been a bigger help to Lewis than Kimi has been to Seb so far.

    6. My thought regarding the Hungarian GP was Ferrari wanted a 1 – 2 finish, and with Vettel’s car having a some sort of steering problem the only way to achieve that was for Raikkonen to remain behind him. Using this approach Ferrari walked away from that race with (25 + 18) 43 points while Mercedes walked away from it with (15 + 12) 27 points. A net gain of 16 Constructors points for Ferrari compared to Mercedes.
      If Raikkonen had overtaken Vettel, then yes, he would have won the race and remained in WDC contention longer, but one would expect Hamilton and Bottas to have also overtaken Vettel, meaning Ferrari would have walked away from the race with (25+12) 37 points and Mercedes with (18+15) 33 points. A net gain of 4 Constructors points for Ferrari.

      1. Yes, that seems to be more logical. And not the kind of conspiracy others try to imply.

      2. Agreed, @drycrust. Kimi was a buffer with a DRS.

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