It seems that some of my comments in the wake of yesterday’s race stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Now that tempers have been soothed, I thought I’d take the opportunity to try and approach the issue in a rational and dispassionate manner.
I still stand by the comments I made after the race: I believe that Kimi Raikkonen is a poor ambassador for Formula 1, and that the sport would probably be better off without him. And the reason why I feel this way is because I cannot respect him. This is not a new sentiment, either; I have found myself unable to respect Raikkonen for some time, but his two-year sabbatical in rallying meant that it hasn’t really been something that I have addressed until recently.
I am someone who prizes the attitude of a driver. Maybe even moreso than their talent. The way they conduct themselves and the way they present themselves goes a long way towards my perception of them. To give an example of this, consider these comments from Paul di Resta, in which he claims he feels “robbed of seventh place” in yesterday’s race because he could not pass Adrian Sutil. Having watched Sutil’s race, I think most of us can agree that Sutil deserved that seventh place much more than di Resta did. For di Resta to come out and say that he felt robbed of that place leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
It’s much the same way with Raikkonen: many of his behaviours bother me. For instance, knocking over a small child and walking away as if it’s not his problem. Even if it was an accident that he wasn’t responsible for, the decent thing to do would be to stop and check to make sure the kid was okay; there is no reason not to. And yet, he didn’t. Likewise, there is the way he treats his engineers. Simon Rennie apparently left Lotus because he felt he could no longer work with Raikkonen, which suggests to me that this is not a one-off incident; it was just the only one we heard. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people seem to think that this is clever or funny or original. It’s rude, and by applauding it or encouraging it, people only drive the wedge in further.
I don’t think that this is a completely unreasonable stance to take. And I’m open to the idea of liking Raikkonen at some point in the future. After all, when Lewis Hamilton joined the sport in 2007, I thought that he was something of a spoiled brat, who went on to win a World Championship without ever having to drive a bad car. But then 2009 came around, and he rallied McLaren around them. Where their car was terrible, he managed to drive the team forward, and that won my respect. Fernando Alonso did the same thing; in 2010, I was one of the staunchest critics of Ferrari’s team orders in Germany, and sincerely hoped that Alonso didn’t win the title because of it. That dislike lasted until 2012, when I started out displaying unequivocal glee at Ferrari’s struggles, but was eventually won over by the way he kept Ferrari in the fight in a bad car, and his leadership of the team off the track. So, in my view, Raikkonen can turn it around – but he’s got a lot of work to do.
And that’s why I think a driver’s attitude is so important. If I can’t respect them for what they say and do off the circuit, then how can I respect what they do on it?