Kimi’s 2008 Season: What Happened?

From | Written by Edd Straw

The reigning world champion had a poor season by his own standards, and
ended up playing second fiddle to Felipe Massa at Ferrari. But
occasional flashes showed that his incredible speed is still in there
somewhere, so what went wrong? Edd Straw explains.

Everyone had a theory for Kimi
Raikkonen’s underwhelming 2008 season. Was he demotivated? Was one
world championship title enough for him? Was he enjoying himself a
little too much off track? Was he letting his fitness slip a little?
Was it all about the tyres? Was the balance of the Ferrari F2008 wrong
for him? Was he on the cusp of retirement?

As ever, the reality of the situation was far more complex than such
broad brush strokes allow, but what was beyond question was that by the
final third of the season he was looking every bit the number two to
team leader Felipe Massa.

So was Kimi just slow in 2008? Well, actually he wasn’t.
Astonishingly, the Finn claimed ten out of 18 fastest laps over the
course of the year, matching Michael Schumacher’s all-time record for a
season. Granted, fastest laps are not necessarily the best indicator of
overall race performance – after all they only reflect a small snapshot
of a 200-mile grand prix – but in the case of Kimi, that one statistic
is the key to understanding his problems.

Even during his more lacklustre performances, the Finn was capable
of setting fastest laps, and he frequently did. The Hungarian Grand
Prix, where he qualified a distant sixth and was only promoted to a
third-place finish by Massa’s last-gasp engine failure, is a classic
example of that, as is Singapore where he was a massive eighth-tenths
off Massa’s pole lap. Yet despite two poor races, he still added a
couple of marks to the FL column.

In simple terms, this doesn’t add up. How can you combine being one
of the quickest drivers over one lap in a race with so often
under-delivering in qualifying? Most often cited as the root of the
problems were the Bridgestone control tyres. Like a number of other
drivers, including BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld, Raikkonen struggled with
tyre warm-up in qualifying, meaning that his front tyres weren’t at
their optimum operating
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. temperature throughout a qualifying lap. Once
again, there is more to this than meets the eye.

The way the tyres performed was more of a symptom of the problem
than the absolute cause. After all, as Bridgestone’s director of
motorsport tyre development Hirohide Hamashima points out, weren’t
these the same tyres that, despite difficulties adapting to at the
start of the year, Kimi won the title on in 2007?

"Of course, the tyres may have some responsibility, but I believe
that car set-up affects him more than tyre warm-up because those
compounds have been used for two years already," says Hamashima. "Last
year Kimi didn’t mention it, but this year many times he has complained
about tyre warm-up.

"So basically I think that the car characteristics are different
from last year to this year – the Ferrari has a little bit more of an
understeer tendency. That’s why Kimi couldn’t control the car so well
in qualifying, but sometimes had a quickest lap during the race."

Here things begin to add up. As a rule, the Ferrari F2008
understeered. This meant that Raikkonen struggled in qualifying,
particularly as the season went on and the prevailing characteristics
of the car edged further towards understeer. Add in a few tyre warm-up
difficulties to exacerbate the problem and you have car No.1
languishing on the second or third row of the grid.

Come the race start, it’s a similar situation with the car
understeering. However, as the first stint goes on, the Bridgestone
tyres begin to wear. In terms of balance, this would generally move the
car’s behaviour towards oversteer, meaning that Kimi finds the car more
to his liking a little later in the stint.

But by then, he’s bottled up behind the odd BMW and Heikki
Kovalainen, maybe even a Toyota or two, and can’t exploit that speed.
It isn’t until he finds some space in the second or third stint that he
is fully able to show his speed once the tyres have transformed the
handling of the car.

That was the story of too many of Raikkonen’s races in 2008.

"Basically the tyre is going to an oversteer tendency during the
race," says Hamashima. "Maybe the car is a little bit understeery, but
as the tyres move more towards oversteer Kimi finds a good balance and
as a result could get the best lap in the race."

Of course, there were races where the characteristics of the circuit
– Magny-Cours for example – meant he was able to get the tyre warm-up
right in qualifying and was able to excel on Saturday afternoon. There
were also times – Spa for example – where Raikkonen was able to charge
to the front on the opening lap, and we witnessed a performance worthy
of a world champion.

But, the fact was, there were just too many races where his struggle
to adapt his driving style to the understeering Ferrari F2008
undermined his chances.

Ironically, the Belgian Grand Prix, the very race that could have
heralded his return to form, was the one that seemed to kill off his
chances of defending the drivers’ title. Although he again qualified
disappointingly, it was largely as a consequence of a mistake and he
claimed to have made a stride forward with the handling.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors."I am happier with the car now, but the mistake I made didn’t help,"
he said at the time. "So we didn’t get exactly what we wanted but at
least the car feels better."

He made amends for the mistake with a scintillating first couple of
laps. Pushing Massa towards the grass on the run to Les Combes on the
opening lap was definitely the Kimi of old, not a demotivated shadow,
and once he had capitalised on Lewis Hamilton’s La Source spin on the
second lap to take the lead a couple of corners later, he was gone.
This really could have been the race that turned things around. Then,
in the closing laps, it rained.

Hamilton carved into his lead and passed him – controversially –
into La Source in the closing stages. With the Ferrari hardly a
user-friendly car in the wet, he did amazingly well to retake the lead
from Hamilton, only to crash at Blanchimont later that lap. Ten points
became none and in the remaining five races he didn’t even look like
winning a race.

By his own admission, the motivation had waned a little despite
being able to secure an extra year on his Ferrari contract to take him
through to the end of 2010, a deal understood to be a result of him
scoring a certain proportion of the team’s net total of points over the
previous 18 months.

"That is the way it is," Raikkonen recently told Finnish TV station MTV3
when asked about his motivation. "If you know you are fighting only for
third place then you maybe don’t have the same speed for the whole race
as normal. If you have no chance to overtake or improve your position,
it is definitely not very interesting. When you are driving for the
title, naturally, things are completely different."

Other than in Shanghai, where he had to let Massa past for second
place, he was very much the junior partner at Ferrari in the title
run-in. And you wouldn’t completely blame Kimi for becoming a little
demotivated – there were times when it wasn’t just the handling of the
car that wasn’t on his side.

Wind back to the Spanish Grand Prix and things were looking very
good for him. He had just won in Barcelona – his second victory in the
opening four races – and was nine points clear of Hamilton in the
drivers’ championship. Things were looking very good; certainly far
better than they were last season when there were suggestions he was
under pressure for his seat after a difficult start to his Ferrari

In the next four races, Raikkonen was beset with catastrophic luck
that cost him big points. At Monaco, he had pole position but was given
a drive-through penalty because the team failed to get his wheels on
quickly enough before the start. No points. In Canada, he was preparing
for a pit-exit drag race with Robert Kubica when Hamilton clattered
into the back of him at the traffic lights. No points.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.At Magny-Cours, he was supreme, obliterating Massa in qualifying and
cruising to victory when some exhaust damage dropped him to second. Two
points lost. At Silverstone, he was carving into Hamilton’s lead prior
to the first pit stop, only for Ferrari’s dodgy weather forecast to
lead to him being sent back out on worn standard wets on the brink of a
deluge. More points gone begging. Big points.

But ranged against that bad luck, there was also a second half of
the season during which there were too many races where he looked more
like an also-ran than a defending champion. Not even the occasional
majestic performances in Spain, Bahrain, Magny-Cours and Spa can
counter that.

Two wins could have been three or four. That could have kept him at the sharp end of the title chase. That could
have given him the boost he needed to find that extra few tenths he
needed. The fact was, that wasn’t how it turned out and Raikkonen has
to be considered one of the disappointments of the season in terms of
delivering on his ability. Those days when he was on his game served
only to remind us of just how good he is.

The question is, can he bounce back after what was, pound for pound,
the worst season of his F1 career? With the return to slick tyres
expected to make the control Bridgestone tyres oversteery even on
qualifying laps, don’t bet against the driver who simply became "The
Finn" in 2008 regaining the right to insert "Flying" into his name next
year. But if he has another year like 2008, who knows what the future
will hold. always has ‘flying’ next to his name here! This was a really good ‘review’ of Kimi’s season by Edd Straw. I think he made the most important observations of the tyre situation and the ‘rule’ of the F2008. Straw gathered that not only were handling and set-up issues the problem, but there were races after Spain where Kimi was struck by endless bad luck, and missing out on a good 20-25 points from leading the championship were definately not his fault. It’s a team sport, let’s remember that.

Straw did also obliterate the ridiculous idea that Kimi wasn’t focused enough, with the fact that Spa was in the later half of the season and he performed superbly, where there was no sign of lack of determination or motivation. After the way it ended though, it was a huge blow and understandably. He continued to work though and began appearing on the podium again, scoring 3rd places consecutively in the final three races. The fastest lap award which Kimi has received for the second year running isn’t just acknowledging his awesome consistancy in speed – it’s a reminder that he was always giving his best, he loves driving, he goes as fast as he can to win and that’s all. I thank Autosport for paying some attention to the fastest driver on the grid – admit it everyone, he is. Haha!

Finally, Straw concluded that 2008 was no doubt Kimi’s worst F1 season. Looking back at the statistics excluding his first two seasons, it’s hard to see where but it’s the potential that Kimi could have reached this year which makes it the worst and disappointing, as obviously for the first time since 2003 his teammate beat him in the championship standings. It’s amazing how so much can change in a matter of months. After Kimi became world champion in 2007, I’m sure every fan thought we’d see greater days in 2008. All of us are heartbroken about it, even my brother said sorry to me about how it went for Kimi. He knows the amount of pressure that goes with being a loyal fan. The good thing about it, however, is that we know Kimi will do his best and make the most out of winter testing with the new regulations and tyres, he will fight back and he will win again.

10 thoughts on “Kimi’s 2008 Season: What Happened?

  1. aaaaahhhhhh!
    finaly we find someone intelligent!! finally an article which can be read and understood by everyone on earth!
    thanks for sharing that Saima!
    and i totaly agree with you,
    as most of the Raikkos, i didn’t think it was Kimi’s worst season despite the final result, sure coz be 3rd with a car that doesn’t suit him is in my opinion a big challenge and a big success afterall! not what we expected earlier in the season but nevertheless. we can be proud of him and i want to say him that our trust in Kimi is even bigger after that!

    it is only a postponement!!
    and the raikkos will still be there!


  2. Yes totally, Kimi did a pretty damn good job in consideration of all these factors. Finishing 3rd after it all isn’t a disaster. It’s just the situations he faced in qualy and races most of the time!


  3. Excellent article, thanks for that.  It is so nice to read a balanced article about Kimi and this year. I think he is sort of right about it being a "worst" year.  I mean that in the way that so many problems were thrown in to the mix and what could have been an excellent year turned into one that I am sure in some ways Kimi himself would rather forget, after all he doesn’t like to come third.  No matter, we have faith, and we know our Flying Finn will fly in 2009.


  4. 2009 reg’s will be more to Kimi’s liking. I think the cars will be a return to feel and instinct, wich Kimi has in bucket loads.
    Next year should be a red-wash. Ferrari and Kimi back on top.


  5. Thanks for the article Evenstar! I think it´s the first honest and unbiased review I´ve read of Kimi´s year (apart from yours that is), this guy saw what all of us did, that the problem was not Kimi´s supposed lack of motivation, but instead it was the tyres and the understeering car. I don´t agree with this being Kimi´s worst F1 year, I strongly think that 2006 was worse, the car failed him throughout the year and he couldn´t win a single race, plus his relationship with McLaren kept deteriorating. And this is not the case with Ferrari; even though  this year didn´t turn out the way anyone expected, the team still supports him and everyone is confident that he´ll bounce back next year; afterall this is the team that Kimi has pledged his love for and with whom he promised to finish his career with. ;pKeep flying Kimi!!!


  6. I agree with all of you guys. But i also think he was not as motivated after spa. Its very hard to read articles on the internet fairly written with all this lewis thing. Itv sometimes are ok but most of time..its kiss ass. Only is interesting. And now autosport’s fair article. We must admit that given his talent he should have gotten around those problems, it may be not just the car..kimi had worst cars before…04..06…but you know kimi is just cool about things like this… too cool sometimes. I also believe he was very good team mate too…in the last two races he tried his best to make sure massa had max points..even in brazil he had the speed in the race but he was content to keep watch on lewis’s position..making sure when lewis needs to push he was near enough to keep him at the best position for the team..its just a theory..but i think it made good sense team wise…patrese in 92 and schumacher in 99. He will be better next year..even to say  he will be faster and more focused…he will want to prove something because maybe has good reason to this time…he will be better maybe just because i think he was pissed off a little too much than he’s used to in 08.


  7. I read this review yesterday on Autosports site and thought it was really good. He explains his problems well and extinguishes the ridicoulous motivation rumors. Mr Straw does however do a little turn-around at the end and suddenly calls Kimi an "also-ran". By that he contradicts himself somewhat in my opinion. But still – a very good article.
    And I was so happy to see you posted it here Evenstar. Your sobering comments is the little extra that it needed 🙂 I can now post this in The Kimi fan group on Facebook with a good conscience 😉


  8. Yeah, the ‘also-ran’ comment was kinda uncalled for, especially when he says that Kimi’s best performances of the year can’t excuse it. I guess Mr Straw is keeping in the mind the general perception most F1 fans took, they probably saw Kimi as an ‘also-ran’, so I agree with him in that sense, because there really were times when even I thought "come on Kimi…."But. Kimi isn’t just saying it when he said he and team have learnt a lot of lessons from this year. He’s very motivated for next year and is determined to put things right again.


  9. I don’t really quite agree. For one this dude has serious memory issues. 1 – Kimi didn’t start on pole at Monaco, Massa did. even without that drive through, he was not really doing much. He crashed all by himself at Ste Devote, and also took out the Force India of Sutil. He was pointless that day, but remember, before he crashed into Sutil he was running in a points scoring position. 2 – Repassing Lewis at Blanchimont. That was arguable. The replays showed Lewis slowing down to avoid a recovering Rosberg, and was nearly hit by Kimi who was ignoring the waved yellow flags. That is already illegal by itself.For me, it was never the case of the problem of the car. If the car was the real culprit, why did Massa could push Lewis all the way to Brazil? No, the real culprit was Kimi when he didn’t help in developing the car. Without his input, how could the team would know what he wanted? It’s not like the McLaren that has a wider range of option with it’s car (it has a better ballast system and lower center of gravity) which he was used to driving for. Ferrari usually rely on one drivers giving all the inputs, just like Schumacher did during their dominant years. To think that he can just come in and drive the car without fully understanding how it works in just naive in Kimi’s part. That’s why altho he may be one of the fastest drivers in F1, he could never be someone like Fernando, who would work around the clock with the team, talking to them on how to make the car performs better and faster. Would Renault won if Fernando stayed at Mclaren this season? highly unlikely. And to his credit, that bit of "helping the team" habit has rubbed onto Lewis Hamilton, and thus you see how it turned out for him at the end. Kimi needs to bounce back next season, that’s for sure, but he would never become a champ again unless he change his habit.


  10. Haha! I hadn’t noticed Edd Straw’s Monaco pole position comment, of course, he’s completely wrong there.But about your points:1. Kimi did indeed go off at Ste Devote and damage his wing. But Massa also went off track, didn’t he? He was just that little bit lucky that he didn’t touch any barriers. Kimi wasn’t really ‘doing much’ because he was unable to. The unquestionable reason for that is that he was struggling and the F2008 really wasn’t working with him and the development took a complete left turn after Spain (where Kimi absolutely dominated). He even managed to conserve his car pretty well at France, don’t you think? But oh no, Kimi just likes to crash into things apparently. The accident with Sutil, it happened straight after the safety car went in, Kimi was pushing but he wasn’t as careful as he should have been. Yes, in hindsight we can all say that. But it happens in racing, he got caught out on the wet spot at full speed and controlled it at least. Sutil also had a wobbly moment where Kimi slipped, if you noticed. Maybe Kimi was asleep? But for the lightening reaction he gave, clearly he wasn’t.2. Everyone knew about the yellow flag being waved there. But look at the replays. My god, these two guys were racing all out for the WIN. Yet they were being as careful as they possibly could. Kimi avoided crashing (unlike Lewis at Canada lol) and just barely missed touching the McLaren. Part of the evasive action was to go into the space next to Rosberg who was struggling too. So, is Kimi going to brake and wait for Rosberg to get back into shape, when he’s racing Lewis? Could he have done all that in a matter of a split second? No. The position he was in ahead of Rosberg was because he avoided an accident. Rosberg was a backmarker anyway. You’re right that passing under yellow flags is illegal but obviously the stewards didn’t think it was a serious ‘offence’ nor did Kimi gain advantage because he spun in the next corner anyway. That’s racing.For you, obviously the car wasn’t the problem for Kimi because you don’t understand what was the problem in the first place and how it got worse and stayed like that for the majority of the season, until Spa when Ferrari went back to how the car was COMPLETELY for Kimi, like it was at Spain. Funny how he was on course to win the race at Spa then, eh? The ultimate issue was the tyres and it’s a fact, as Kimi’s performances in qualifying showed and mostly in cold/wet races. Alex Wurz, a great knowledgable test driver, who’s worked with Kimi, even said so.Look at Silverstone, Massa’s performance? How did that suddenly turn around and he became the most improved driver of the season, apparently? Did Kimi not bother and only Massa bothered? I think not. The development process of the F2008 didn’t work with Kimi, and it suited Massa far more, especially regarding their use of the tyres. Yes, you have a point that Kimi perhaps didn’t ‘lead’ the development into his hands. But that’s not the point. It’s been a learning process between Kimi and Ferrari. Even after winning the title in 2007, he still struggled that season before France, remember? Nothing was 100% perfect for him. This time, things should have improved after Spain, like last year after France, but instead they went backwards. So, if Kimi did things right last year during the development stages, what happened this year? I’m sorry, but your conclusion that Kimi didn’t ‘help’ doesn’t really add up. In fact, he was the world champion, surely the team should have put more focus around him? His engineer already stated last year that Kimi is no way useless when it comes to development, he stated that despite talking little he is actually very efficient in his words and knows exactly the problems. The McLaren was completely different to what Kimi first received in 2007 with the Ferrari, so neither does that argument count. You say Ferrari usuall rely on one driver, er, they did with Schumacher, but why did Domenicali say at the start of 2008 that both Massa and Kimi will be on equal terms? They treated them equally, no preference to Kimi as champion. Part of Massa’s success was due to Kimi’s slump but Massa’s work with his engineer Rob Smedley was greater than ever and they pulled off some amazing weekends together, especially Valencia and Monaco.We already know Kimi isn’t Alonso or Schumacher. We don’t care either. Alonso and Renault have a great relationship, and his ruthlessness makes him probably the best all round driver. If Kimi bragged on about being champion and forced Ferrari to support only him, then yes, he probably would have won? Oh come on. It’s a lot more complicated than that.McLaren went into 2008 with one objective, Hamilton MUST be champion. They never cared for Heikki. McLaren will never admit to having a No.1 and No.2 status at McLaren with their drivers. But funny, how Lewis still after all that support only just managed to won by one point lolKimi knows what he needs to do, Ferrari know what THEY need to do WITH Kimi. To improve their relationship, as clearly they need to learn a lot more about Kimi’s needs, they’ve planned an intensive testing programme this winter. So, all this talk that ‘oh Kimi’s gotta change his attitude’ is irrelevant. He knows how to win championships and how to lose them. He won in 2007 by working hard, by overcoming his tyre issues, didn’t he? He won the most races, didn’t he? He had the most fastest laps, did he not? In 2008, he worked damn hard alright as he always does, but the problem was so complicated that it lasted 5 GODDAMN MONTHS to fix and by then it was too late obviously. Yeah, Kimi just couldn’t be bothered and wasn’t smart emough…sure! whatever you say! 😀


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