Written by Dev Ty.
Lost chances, raw pace, podium finishes and some hidden aces
He didn’t conjure a single win in 2016! So that already sounds drab and maybe, dull to most. But then, neither did his team Ferrari. In a season where thankfully Nico Rosberg toppled Lewis to emerge right on top giving fans and critics something refreshingly new albeit in the same pecking order called Mercedes, Kimi Raikkonen’s 2016 Ferrari season can be judged in myriad ways.
Kimi endured a tough season. It wouldn’t be incorrect to state he emerged unsullied. But at the same time, he made the most of the given circumstances and roared, even if with an understated grunt, in his massively impressive tacit style. And in the process of collecting 4 useful podium finishes, including two stellar drives at Bahrain and Spain.
In the end of 2016
There weren’t victories, but were clear indications on 4 occasions. And siding with conjecture, if only for pure love of Kimi reveals that two clear missed opportunities were the fall outs at Bahrain, where Kimi’s smolderingly quick pace, seeing him one tenths of a second behind Hamilton almost saw the Finn edge out the Briton. It wasn’t to be. Then, in Spain, Raikkonen, who finished P2 yet again, missed the win, thanks to indifferent pit strategies and Mercedes’ overpowering pace.
But given Merc’s dominant form this season, yet another year where they reigned and deservingly so, Raikkonen didn’t deteriorate. He didn’t bleed dry tears. He didn’t dissipate under pressure. Truth be told, Kimi, etched on 186 at the end on P6 suggested a strong improvement in form, pace performance and most importantly, qualifying.
Nico’s delight, Hamilton’s fury, Max’s rise and Kimi’s resurgence
Sebastian Vettel, the famous 4 time world champion made infamous by his failure to take Ferrari where he could have, rather should have, was, by no means of imagination Ferrari’s top driver. Despite him finishing P4, above Max and teammate Kimi, Vettel, Abu Dhabi kept aside was a frail shadow of himself.
Beaten fair and square by a vastly improved Kimi, whose staying put at the Scuderia even for 2017 saw a sudden, visible rise in the Finn’s qualifying form, was enough to exasperate the German. This doesn’t mean that Kimi’s ‘closest friend’ didn’t show glimpse of his mettle at Abu Dhabi’s electrifying Yas Marina, a track where Ferrari’s last world champ exulted, ‘leave me alone, I know what am doing’.
But let’s focus on Kimi’s intricacies and passionate resolve in 2016, leaving cold calling alone
At the end of the season, trumped by the Wiesbaden-born mercurial Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen’s tally reads 186 points. Too bad? Not really is it? P6! That hurts? Yes, perhaps because before entering Austin, Raikkonen was etched and perhaps fated to finish P4. But who said Ferrari crew have been awarded for their faint and vague revered pit strategies? They’ve failed Raikkonen evidently on more occasions than the laconic Finn would have liked! It’s just that they don’t learn and Kimi doesn’t word it out. Gladly, the events in 2016 didn’t mirror the complete lack of efforts rallied to push Kimi’s struggling 2014 menacing disaster. At least, there were failures, there weren’t scathing and apparent ignorance on his crews’ part this year.
A season compromised by Ferrari?
One would hope that the tumultuous season, many who call it a disaster for Ferrari, now over, Maurizio would be sleeping well. But wouldn’t he be traumatized a bit by Kimi’s Austin failure, which should actually be accorded to his pit crew’s wile antics and not the driver?
Would Maurizio Arrevabene forgive the rains of Brazil? Has Raikkonen himself made peace with the fact that instead of holding on to P3, where, from the beginning he had seemed comfortable, ended up into the advertising board of Heineken? Even if the scenario rhymes, the viewers and world-wide Ferrari fans didn’t appreciate the sight.
Confrontations with Max
If Austin fiasco for Kimi was forgiven by fans and Brazil’s wet overhaul overlooked, the season’s most polarized confrontation with Max Verstappen and his Red Bull at Hungaroring was adrenaline inspiring stuff, truth be told.
Raikkonen, despite a gritty P5 at Hungary, having begun P14, was adjudged the driver of the race within minutes of Hamilton clinching Hungary. The corner 2 clash with the Dutchman was what they say daredevilry, not only on the part of an aggressive ‘Mad Max’ but precise albeit ostentatious defending by Kimi, who went down fighting in the end for P4, but not bowing out at any stage.
Comparisons with 2015 vis-a-vis 2016 for Raikkonen
Cool, calm and perhaps weighing understated appeal over mindlessness and staid measure over hapless aggression, Raikkonen, a man of few words and once, a direct promoter of video game Angry Birds (picture Lotus 2013 car), has gone from strength to strength in his Ferrari stint, the second of his career.
Even though there hasn’t been a victory, it has always seemed that one is around the corner. If 2015’s Kimi, the one who finished P4 was improving, then 2016’s Kimi, also the one trailing Seb for the second year in a row, closed a huge gap.
That he was trailing the Heppenheim-born champion by a whopping 128 points, managing mere 150 in 2015 clearly hurt. Despite Raikkonen doing his characteristic sizzle on speed then. But in 2016, he came vastly close to Seb, closing the gap from his German teammate, who he trailed this year by mere 26 points. Sebastian at P4 with 212 would feel slightly helped by Raikkonen’s dramatic Austin failure (race retirement) and Brazil’s accident on an incredibly wet Interlagos.
Some lost chances
Bolstered by strong podium finishes, first in Bahrain’s night safari (P2)and then Austria’s Spielberg circuit( P3), Raikkonen continued his good form clinching some incredible highs through a fluent P2 at Spain, a race that clearly belonged to Max. He would finally exchange pleasantries with Vladimir Putin at P3 at Sochi, the last fans saw their hero on the podium.
But amidst the cheer and euphoria, a distant possibility of emerging somewhere at the top was clinched by clearly one of the finest driver’s of 2016, Sergio Perez, who overtook Kimi on the final lap at Baku. Raikkonen poised for a firm and commanding P3 had to settle for a somewhat indifferent P4. His dismal failures thanks to the inexplicable Ferrari error at Austin didn’t help his cause.
Thankfully, Kimi soldiered on, marshalling his SF16H on pure will and staid elegance to mace salt in the face of his critics who had questioned his ‘attitude and seriousness’ for qualifying. Out-pacing Sebastian, for some, a faster driver, Kimi outscored the Deutscher 11-to-10 in 2016, a statistic burgeoned by Kimi’s will to exult his authority on Fridays, regardless of the outcome on Sundays. What helps additionally is that in Hungary, the ‘Iceman’ set his 43rd overall fastest lap, and his only one for the year that clearly belonged to Nico, according to Kimi, the ‘better and deserving man in Mercedes’.
But while fans would have certainly hoped that Raikkonen could’ve have edged out Max at Hungary and Spain and not have succumbed to the complete loss of traction at Brazil, there were clear positives as numbers indicate above.
The usual grins, the irate and risen brows and the laughing at the face of adversities, Kimi was the charming self in 2016. Thank heavens he didn’t lose out on brownie points unlike Vettel’s diatribe on Charlie in Austin’s complex saga. At times, struggling with rear tyres and running on depleted car handling, faltered by poor racing strategies, Kimi was once again the stoic albeit elegant looking dude on zooming wheels. The sharply dressed man in red, wearing cool weathers on his sleeve gave usual monosyllabic answers and proved frustration isn’t a word in his dictionary, even though he may have marked a book-mark on the phrase that says ‘Max’.
But for next year, we have to hope that the victories come. They should. Everyone like’s a smiling Kimi, the red assassin. Regardless of cast, color, creed, everyone agrees, he’s still got the speed. Let’s just leave him alone. He knows what he is doing.