He discovered on the morning of the Italian Grand Prix that he wouldn’t have a Ferrari race seat in 2019, but Kimi Räikkönen’s desire to race remains unchanged. Ditto his personality… Mark Hughes.
F1 ANALYSIS THE ICEMAN GOETH Belgium, Italy & Singapore Grands Prix
Kimi Räikkönen had been fighting for his Ferrari future all season and it had generally been a losing battle. It’s hard to show your full capabilities when on the wrong side of team strategy, but the phase of the season book-ended by Silverstone and Spa – two of his strongest tracks, where he has historically been faster than team leader Sebastian Vettel – is traditionally when he’s been able to make a strong case for himself.
Silverstone hadn’t gone according to plan (the first lap lock-up into Lewis Hamilton), although he’d been very quick there. At Hockenheim he’d let Valtteri Bottas past after being wrong-footed while lapping Kevin Magnussen – and he’d eventually been pulled aside for Vettel, but had made engineer Jock Clear spell that out over the radio. In Hungary, he’d been used as the tactical jammer on Mercedes to help Vettel, but had taken satisfaction from being much quicker than Seb in the wet of Q3. In fact, had the team not sent him out for his final Q3 lap smack into the spray of Romain Grosjean, he was confident he’d have been on a comfortable pole. A frustrating phase, with a lot of underlying pace somehow never quite translating into the sort of result that might have rescued his drive for 2019, especially so with the passing of Sergio Marchionne, the man who had initiated the plan to replace Räikkönen with Charles Leclerc. Below the upper echelons of Fiat-Chrysler management, there was a lot of support in the team for him to stay, but he really needed a big result.
So to Spa, where Räikkönen’s record is particularly sparkling. It looked very promising on the Friday, as the Finn set the pace, instantly at home in the fast and driveable SF71H around the glorious sweeps of the Ardennes track. Then damn it, didn’t circumstances go and throw a curve ball into proceedings with the sudden rain at the start of Q3, just after everyone had left the pits on slicks. As they all immediately returned at the end of the long lap to change onto inters, confusion and indecision reigned in the Ferrari garage. No one could call if the rain was going to increase in intensity (thereby making the track ever slower), or if it had already fallen its hardest (and the track would therefore become ever quicker). The length of the lap combined with the time-costly opening lap on slicks meant there wasn’t scope for the usual two runs; the question was fuel load and whether the single run should be optimised for the track getting wetter or drier? If the track was.
Lots of voice recorders, precious few words. While he has always eschewed the spotlight, Räikkönen remains incredibly popular.