Kimi insists tough season no surprise


“Obviously with the new team I expected it to be difficult because of how things work,” said Raikkonen.

“If the car doesn’t suit you, and [I’ve had] similar situations before with Ferrari, it’s not easy to change things when certain things are not right for you.

“Over the year they have a clear plan what we have to improve to get back where Ferrari should be.

“I feel all the areas are going to make a big, big improvement.

“It’s unfortunate we’ve had this kind of year because it’s not good for me, Ferrari or fans of Ferrari, but that’s part of the game.

“It’s not the first time I’ve had difficulties – you just have to take the good out of them and make sure it does not happen for the future.”

The 2007 world champion said the bad season on his side was less important as the Ferrari had not been quick enough to fight for the title anyway.

“I have had difficult seasons before – it doesn’t matter, it is what it is,” he added.

“When you’re not fighting for the championship it makes no difference, it was just overall difficult all the time.”

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  1. Premium content article on Kimi’s 2014 season, I’m a subscriber so I’m sharing it here:


    Raikkonen and his annus horribilis

    No matter how you look at it, it is very hard to find positives in Kimi Raikkonen’s first season back with Ferrari. BEN ANDERSON hears from the Finn and the Scuderia’s top engineers.

    By any measure you care to use, the 2014 Formula 1 season must go down as the worst of Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 career. Statistically speaking it is undeniably so.

    The 2007 world champion was roundly beaten by Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso. Alonso qualified ahead more often and usually by a large margin. He scored 106 more points than his Finnish team-mate and finished six places further up in the drivers’ championship (the largest gap between scoring team-mates on the grid).

    Not since Raikkonen’s rookie F1 season in 2001 has he fared this badly. This year marks the first time since that fledgling campaign he’s failed to finish on the podium, and if you apply the current scoring system to his results for Sauber that season, he would be 11 points better off than he was this year.

    As far as the numbers are concerned, there is no doubt 2014 was Raikkonen’s annus horribilis as an F1 driver.

    The Scuderia would have expected far better when it re-signed Raikkonen last autumn. In fairness, it knew what it was getting. After all, the team paid him not to race for the final two years of his previous Maranello contract – so that Alonso could join the team alongside Felipe Massa. But even if Ferrari thought Alonso would have the edge over a season, it surely thought Raikkonen would run the Spaniard much closer than he has.

    Perhaps Ferrari took encouragement from Raikkonen’s race-winning performances with Lotus upon his return to the sport in 2012. The rally accident that ended Robert Kubica’s F1 career ultimately allowed Raikkonen to renew his own. And strong results at Enstone restored Raikkonen’s reputation as one of the sport’s most effective operators.

    But the naysayers who wrote off the Finn in 2009, when he was largely overshadowed by Massa before the Brazilian’s season-ending accident in Hungary, will feel vindicated by this year’s record.

    To the watching world, Raikkonen appears a pale imitation of the driver who won the 2007 world championship, and could have won multiple titles but for unreliability in the McLaren-Mercedes he drove before his first stint at Ferrari.

    But why has ‘The Iceman’ melted in the searing competitive heat of F1 this season? There’s no doubt the F14 T wasn’t one of the finest F1 cars Ferrari has ever produced, but Alonso hustled it to podiums, and a near-victory in Hungary. Raikkonen hasn’t come close…

    Raikkonen admits he struggled all season to get it handling in a way he likes, complaining constantly about the front-end feel of the car. Raikkonen is highly sensitive to understeer. He hates a car that won’t turn in the way he wants. He says it’s been that way ever since he started racing.

    “Since go-karts, if it doesn’t turn on the front bite I never liked it – my driving style is more to try and carry the speed into the corners and try to keep it up in the mid-corner,” Raikkonen explains. “It’s just the way that I’m used to doing things.

    “Obviously we change it a little bit every year and with every car, but I still think it’s the fastest way – when you get the car working for you as you want.

    “It’s just something that is lacking from the car right now, and if you cannot put the car where you want and brake where you want because of locking or sliding, the front [becomes] a guessing game, and if you miss a little bit this at [one] corner you’re going to miss a lot of speed on the next straight.

    “It sounds [like] a small thing, but around one lap [if] you keep guessing at every corner it’s quite a big deficit. For most of this [season] it’s been like that and quite difficult, and then the time difference is quite big.

    “The rear has improved for sure; the front is the problem for me and I think that limits. Fast corners, slow corners: it’s the same story everywhere so that’s limiting all around the lap.”

    Occasionally, such as in Spain, Singapore and Brazil, Raikkonen looked genuinely competitive compared with Alonso in qualifying, but the differences between the two have more often than not been massive. The average gap between them on Saturdays across 19 events was larger than between any other team-mate pairing on the grid.

    F1 cars have changed a lot this year: they have less downforce, harder tyres, new braking systems and completely different engines compared with the ones with which Raikkonen got re-acquainted to Formula 1 at Lotus.

    Ferrari technical director James Allison, who also worked with Raikkonen in their previous roles at Enstone, reckons the particulars of the Finn’s driving style haven’t meshed particularly well with the latest generation of F1 car.

    “Kimi’s style is quite heavy on the front tyres and gentle on the rear,” Allison explains. “Given that F1 cars are, in general, rear limited, this has been one of Kimi’s trump cards in the past.

    “However, for Kimi to be able to exploit this advantage he needs a car/tyre combination that allows him to lean on the front axle quite heavily.

    “Fernando and Kimi are both world champions and are both extremely fast drivers. If you give Kimi a car that he can work with then it is difficult to put a cigarette paper between them.

    “From the outset Fernando has felt the limitations of the car most strongly at the rear, and Kimi the front. This is because, to produce the pace Fernando produces, he does comparatively less work on the entry to the corner and more on the exit.”

    Allison reckons the fact Ferrari produced a difficult and uncompetitive car for the first season of F1’s new V6 hybrid turbo era has amplified Raikkonen’s difficulties.

    “The 2014 cars are inherently tricky,” he adds. “On top of this, the F14 T is not an easy car. We have improved it considerably during the year, but it still lacks downforce and power relative to the competition, and has certain handling characteristics that are a little unpredictable.

    “Kimi has spent a lifetime racing cars where he can use his gifts on the entry of a corner, leaving him free to be gentle with the rears on exit. Being gentle on the rear is a real asset over a season and our challenge is to produce a car that allows Kimi to exploit that talent.”

    Ferrari’s chief engineer Pat Fry, who knows Raikkonen’s driving very well from their time together at McLaren, supports Allison’s view. Fry believes the harder compound of Pirelli tyres used this year have added to his problems.

    “Kimi struggles a lot more with the front end than Fernando and by the time you get that front end into the car the rear becomes a problem,” says Fry. “To some degree on the softer-compound tyres it’s not bad. Look at Singapore: when he went onto super-softs he found a huge amount of time.

    “It’s a challenge getting the front tyres working for him. It’s an ongoing battle trying to understand it.

    “You’ll hear lots of drivers talking of the challenge of these tyres. You start fuel-saving and you lose tyre temperature and can’t get balance, then you push and it comes back. The harder you are on the fronts [in terms of your driving style] the better you’re going to be.

    “Fernando’s driving style works with these tyres and also he can drive around and adapt to problems. Kimi’s more sensitive about the front end. He was exactly the same at McLaren. I recall one season we ended up with seven different front-suspension configurations on the car…”

    Ferrari has tried various set-ups on Raikkonen’s car this year, without much success, but there were signs of real progress at the penultimate race in Brazil, where he lapped competitively on the soft and medium tyres and was the only driver to reach the finish making just two pitstops.

    Critics will argue the very best drivers should adapt to their given circumstances, and thus if Raikkonen belongs in that group he should adjust his technique behind the wheel to get more from the car. The Finn does not agree, arguing that he will be much more effective if the car can be moulded to suit him.

    “I have been in F1 quite a few years, I have never changed it [my driving style] and I will never change as it is not the right way of fixing problems,” he says. “It’s just a combination of many things.

    “Last year we had braking and front-tyre [issues] at the beginning of the year, and then [they] changed to not so good [tyres] and I wasn’t too happy about it [as] I preferred the tyres we had at the beginning of the year.

    “It was a combination of many things and sometimes you have limitations with what you can do. [This year] we got stuck in an area it’s hard to get working.”
    Raikkonen will have Vettel alongside him next year
    Raikkonen will have Vettel alongside him next year © LAT

    With Alonso off to McLaren next season there is perhaps a chance for Raikkonen’s preferences to receive greater priority at Maranello.

    The arrival of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel as his new team-mate may also be good news, as the two get on well off the track, and appear to have compatible driving styles.

    For its part, Ferrari isn’t going to ask Raikkonen to change. It still believes he’s capable of the sort of world-beating performances that defined his early career at McLaren, and Fry reckons it’s down to the engineers to get the car working in a way he likes.

    “We still need to find a better way of finding a better compromise for him,” says Fry. “I think he’s still driving the same as he was. To get the best from him we need to give him the car.”

    Many will find it difficult to stomach granting Raikkonen the benefit of the doubt after a campaign this torrid. Next season there surely won’t be so much slack on offer for cutting.

    Raikkonen has one year remaining on his current deal with Scuderia, and if he wants to remain a Formula 1 driver beyond 2015, he will have to do much, much better than he did this year.

    Time to respond like the champion he is.



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