The timely return of the ‘old’ Kimi

Source: skysports.com

Mark Hughes explains why Kimi Raikkonen’s storming Hungarian GP drive was right on cue for his return to the venue he has proved nearly unbeatable at in the past – legendary Spa – and how a fifth win there could yet help heal certain old wounds…

“It’s very difficult to see anyone other than Kimi Raikkonen winning at Spa,” said a Ferrari team member, and it was easy to see his point.

Since winning there for the first time in 2004 in a McLaren that was far from competitive that year, Raikkonen has been the star performer at his every subsequent appearance at the venue. He won there again for McLaren in 2005. In 2006 the race wasn’t held, but he returned to dominate in 2007 with Ferrari. In 2008 he was denied only through a late rain shower which exposed his car’s inability to keep tyre temperature. Prior to that he’d been on-course for a comfortable victory. One year later, with the severely compromised 2009 Ferrari, he won again.

There is just something about the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, its fast sweeps through the valley, that suits Raikkonen perfectly – and off the back of by far the best performance of his comeback career to date at Hungary, he will arrive at his favourite track as a man on form.

Then consider his car: the Lotus E20 has yet to win a race but has often been the quickest on race day. Its speciality is fast sweeps – just like those of Spa. Add to that the team’s planned introduction of its passive F-duct, the rear wing drag-reducing device that works both in and out of DRS mode, hugely valuable down the long straights there. As a Spa package, you have to admit Raikkonen/Lotus sounds formidable.

At Hungary we finally saw in full the driver that Raikkonen used to be. His pace as the second stops approached – where he lifted himself up from trailing Sebastian Vettel for third to almost vying for the win with Hamilton, overcoming what at one stages had been a 15s deficit – was mesmerising.

As Red Bull realised he was catching Vettel fast, so they pitted their man but even on new tyres Seb could not keep pace with the speed Raikkonen was unleashing as he stayed out on his old tyres. “For most of that second stint, as he sat some way behind Vettel, I didn’t foresee him doing anything other than staying there and I was a bit concerned at how slow he was going,” said Lotus’ engineering chief Alan Permane, “but he’d just been looking after his tyres and when the time came, he just went crazy. He was quite awesome there.”

Lewis Hamilton had been lapping in the mid-high 1m27s in the lead before his stop. Raikkonen was now in the high 1m 25s. Even as Hamilton rejoined on his new rubber he was only lapping in the mid-26s and for a couple of laps, a Raikkonen win looked possible. Hamilton’s primes then came in just as Kimi’s 23 lap-old options finally gave up.

Raikkonen has several times raced strongly this year, most notably in pressuring Vettel for victory in Bahrain, but that little seven-lap sequence at the Hungaroring was the first time since his return from his two year rallying sabbatical that the savagely fast driver of his great days has been evident.

It comes at an interesting time, as Ferrari refuse to downplay the rumour that they would like him back as Felipe Massa’s replacement for 2013. “If we replaced Felipe,” said a Ferrari insider, “we would need to be sure that the replacement would perform to a higher level than him and although there are several good young drivers we are considering, that certainty isn’t there. In many ways Kimi would be the ideal solution; he is fast, experienced and un-political. Everyone at the team already knows how he works, they like him and Fernando would not have a problem to have him as team-mate. But there is a problem.”

That problem is believed to be the less than friendly terms the relationship between Raikkonen and Ferrari President Luca di Montezemelo ended on when the Finn was paid off with one year of his contract still to run. In turn, those close to Kimi say he has vowed never to work with di Montezemelo again. Asked about it, Raikkonen would only say: “I always said I didn’t have any bad feelings against Ferrari. I had a good time with the team. I won my championship there but things could probably gone in a nicer way in the end. Life goes on and you never know what happens in the future.”

With two proud men vowing never to get back together again, you’d have to say the prospect of Raikkonen’s return to Maranello must be rated as slim. But in a way, that’s not the story: the story is that there are elements of the management trying to persuade both men to change their minds.

If Kimi could arrive at Monza – where Montezemelo habitually graces the paddock – as the Spa victor, might that rapprochement become one step more feasible?

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19 responses

  1. Leonardo

    I was there in 2005. I Saw Kimi take the chequered flag through my binoculars, I watched him drive round for the last time, waving at the crowds that had gathered to see HIM win there. As did I.

    Yes, if there is a track that can truly be labelled a ‘Kimi-track’, Spa Francochamps is it.

    Case closed.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    • Dubhe

      Hey, I was there too in 2005 – under the rain! Once again Fernando managed somehow to get a 2nd place, after that stupid Montoya crash with Pizzonia and the elimination of Schumi by Sato… Kimi’s win was a dominant one, though… :-D

      August 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

  2. Gio

    I wonder why, and even the media, are now playing around with the supposed Raikkonen-Ferrari romance. Maybe Kimi is pressuring Lotus to give him a new contract or Ferrari are using Kimi as a decoy. Either way, Ferrari is toxic for Kimi, especially with Alonso and Santander calling the shots.

    August 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm

  3. ajsic

    I think he will stay, and he should stay, with Lotus.The only question is for how many more years and money in contract.I think that money is less and less important for Kimi.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:25 pm

  4. Kimi4WDC

    He’ll stay with Lotus for 2013 and most likely Red Bull for 2014 :)

    August 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    • Amit

      Kimi should move to mclaren.. If he decides to move.. Kimi and ferrari are just rumours. Its not going to happen. Mercedes do not look competitive. Perez or button or even schumacher would be right for ferrari ;-). Kimi needs to win. Mclaren are his best chances. If not then lotus. As mentioned, He can look for Red bull in 2014 alongside friend vettel. By the way ferrari, get schumi back with you. Forget kimi..

      August 2, 2012 at 6:23 am

      • Leonardo

        Lotus will definitely improve in the ‘silly season’ of F1 coming up after the break. All-new tech also on the way.

        But I fear for strategy :(

        August 3, 2012 at 12:07 pm

  5. Shadman

    Kimi is usually stronger in 2nd half of seasons – he was just too amazing during the middle stint at Hungary. Spa is Kimi’s hunting ground. Spa circuit is probably the most testing of any driver without much regard for the car – it’s about how flat can go through Eau Rouge & through some of the other corners? Even the great Alonso gets off the throttle there these days – smart but not exciting/thrilling. Being all “ballsy” may not help like some drivers try to be (like the famous Jacques Villenuerve found out some years ago – I think 2004 – Kimi went flat out through the smoke-filled corner. Webber also had a bad crash there some years ago). A driver has to be perfect for this track – the car doesn’t matter much. Kimi is perfect for this – his win there again this year is fairly certain – it was his last win in 2009 – the only 1 win for Ferrari that year. As for Kimi’s next team, I would agree with the move to McLaren or staying at Lotus. Red Bull will probably go with one of their new young drivers – the days of Coulthard & Webber are behind Red Bull – that’s the whole point of Torro Rosso – Seb came through those ranks. I hope Kimi doesn’t go back to Ferrari – they should probably get Schumi back – just so it proves Schumi wasn’t all that great without a great car/team (in case that isn’t clear already) – Alonso beating Schumi at Ferrari would be amusing to watch :).
    All said & done, just can’t wait to see Kimi winning at Spa!!!!

    August 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  6. MarkedOne

    People, why the hell are you even thinking about Kimi’s transfer?He doesn’t need dominant car like Red Bull’s from 2011. to win WDC.He doesn’t need McLaren, he doesn’t need Ferrari!I think that you want Kimi to go to Red Bull or McLaren just because of easier job to win WDC.I don’t want to see him cruising through dominant season because others will say that just happened because of car.Why Kimi should not stay with Lotus and build something like his core team, just like Schumi did with Ferrari.He has to stay and work with one team,.Have you been reading all these texts saying that morale in Enstone team is kilometers high?They are now ready to give their best because they know why they are developing that E20 car so hard and so good.I guarantee, until the end of season 2012nd Kimi will be the fastest car/driver package on grid.I think he already is, as they demonstrated in Hungary.Can’t wait to see Kimi pwning them all during second half of the season!

    August 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm

  7. Panda

    I prefer Kimi to stay with Lotus.. Lotus is so cool and it suits Kimi well.. Btw, of course if Schumi goes to Ferrari, Alonso will beat him.. Schumi aint the same as schumi in the old days

    August 5, 2012 at 3:50 pm

  8. Amit

    Kimi is here to Win races, to be no. 1 . He doesn’t care for being number 2 or 3. Its ‘frustating’ to lose the race to faulty strategies , goof ups at the pit stop and not so good car. Long time frustation leads to dent in your confidence and one begins to doubt ones ability. Morever, kimi ‘Deserves’ the best car and team. He is in f1 to win.. Kimi doesn’t need to prove it to ppl again that he is quick. He’s done that in past 12 years. Now he needs to win. Lotus are good. Good is the enemy of great. I hope he goes to mclaren, a better team.

    August 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm

  9. ajsic

    Can you prove that McLaren is better team?Or that MP4-27 is faster/better than E20?Can you prove that MP4-28 will be faster than Lotus’ 2013. car (E21)?I think McLaren wouldn’t be so popular team if Kimi wasn’t with them in 2002-2006.
    I think you are not following technical side of F1, and I don’t put blame on you for that.
    Remember the start of the season when McLarens were almost dominant?Lotus was just about 4th or 5th team.And they are now even with McLarens, maybe even better.I am not talking about the points (Lewis lost a lots of points, I know that), I am talking about the speed and potential of the cars.As the 2012 aproaches to end, E20 is going to be like MP4-20, but reliable MP4-20.Just wait and watch.

    August 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm

  10. mark my words.kimi raikkonen.is the champ of this year. in this last races he will win 4 races

    August 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    • Lars

      Spa, Monza, Japan and USA. And of cource good points in the others.

      August 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm

  11. Amit

    Mclaren have won 3 races with mp4-20 and lotus have won none . Mclaren as a team are better than lotus in terms of complete package (better people, strategy and car). Lotus are a good team. Mclaren are better option for kimi if he wishes to win more races in f1. A team with better funding and smart people with a race winning car is mclaren. Lewis has been unfortunate this season. Lets accept it. Would like to hear from the other kimi fans on their opinions.

    August 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm

  12. ajsic

    No, MP4-20 is 10 times winner, but it is uncoparable with crazy 2012 season.
    Anyway, I don’t think that McLaren has faster car than Lotus during race.During qualifying yes, but race does matter more.
    What I want to say is that MAYBE McLaren is better team NOW, but it doesn’t mean that Lotus can’t be better by the end of this season.

    August 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm

  13. Kimi1

    Hey Kimi,
    1. Challenge FerraNando till the last turn in Brasil and win it.
    2. Stay w/ Lotus next year (rules will be the ~same, so Lotus may still deliver)
    3. McLaren 2014 – humiliate FerraNando, again just like 2012, this time with your old steering.
    Good luck @ Spa, and Monza — Say hi to Italy, from the top step…. LdM & Dom deserve it

    August 7, 2012 at 12:22 am

  14. Manan

    iceman kimi will stay at lotus till 2013 and then mclaren or RBull . He will win 4 another races spa, monza, japan n probably USA. Might end up winning the 2012 championship. He will reach his high in his kingdom that is spa n monza. Everybody sit up n take notice. ICEMAN IS BACK WITH FURIOUS SPEED

    August 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

  15. Manan

    By the way Ferrari get Schumi back or Button or Grosjean. And btw forget KIMI RAIKKONEN, he will go to Mclaren as Button’s replacement or Webber’s replacement in Red Bull Racing. Probably KIMI will stay at Lotus and make it a major team. I am waiting to see VETTEL & RAIKKKONEN together in Lotus or Red Bull Racing as they are good friends and the chemistry between them will be excellent.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm

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