Kimi Raikkonen is the last Scuderia Ferrari world drivers’ champion (WDC). Kimi Raikkonen returned for a second stint at Ferrari in 2014 to partner Fernando Alonso. We look at how Raikkonen has fared against his teammates in the four-plus seasons in his second innings with the Italian team.
Kimi Raikkonen’s Second Stint at Ferrari
The First Ferrari Years
Raikkonen arrived from rival team McLaren with a fine record (9 wins, 27 podiums). In his first stint at Ferrari (2007-2009), Raikkonen won the WDC (2007) in his first season with the Italian team. Raikkonen amassed 9 wins and 17 podiums in his three-year stint at Ferrari, before leaving at the end of the 2009 season. The Finn returned to F1 in 2012 after a two-year break during which he participated in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
The comeback with the Lotus F1 team was successful and over two seasons Raikkonen was consistent in a car that was not the fastest on the grid. He added two wins and a further thirteen podiums to his career record. Raikkonen left for greener pastures with a return to his old team, Ferrari, for the 2014 season.
A Formidable Adversary in Fernando Alonso
Raikkonen started the V6 1.6 L Hybrid-Engine era at Ferrari in 2014 with the formidable Alonso as teammate. The Spaniard was in his fifth season at the Maranello-based team at that time. The team and car were built around Alonso.
In a season, when the Ferrari team was off the pace and did not have a single race win or pole position, Raikkonen fared rather poorly against Alonso. The Finn finished 12th compared to Alonso’s 6th position in the WDC. He scored only 34% of the point tally of Alonso. The statistics of the season clearly showed Raikkonen underperformed in his first season back with his old team.
|2014 Comparison||KIMI RAIKKONEN||FERNANDO ALONSO|
|Points Scored||55 pts||161 pts|
|Top 5 Finishes||1||8|
Sebastian Vettel Replaces Alonso in 2015
Sebastian Vettel, the formidable four-time world champion, replaced Alonso as Raikkonen’s teammate in 2015. Ferrari made giant steps that season compared to the previous winless season. Even as Vettel scored three race wins and ten podiums, Raikkonen had no wins and three podiums only. He scored 53.9% of the point tally of Vettel.
Another poor season saw the Finn outclassed by his teammate. The two-year contract was coming to an end that season. With speculation rife that the likes of Valtteri Bottas (then at Williams) or Nico Hulkenberg could replace him, Ferrari re-signed Raikkonen for a one-year deal for 2016.
|2015 Comparison||KIMI RAIKKONEN||SEBASTIAN VETTEL|
|Top 5 Finishes||10||17|
A Much Improved Performance in 2016
Even as Ferrari took a step back in 2016 and had another winless season, Raikkonen’s performance improved and his performance in points and podiums was much closer to Vettel. He scored 87.7% of the point tally of Vettel.
As Raikkonen was on a one-year contract, from the middle of the season itself the speculation about his future at Ferrari restarted. For a majority of the drivers on the grid, driving for a marquee team like Ferrari is the ultimate goal. Raikkonen at that time was 37-years old and the oldest driver on the grid. With the younger stars pushing hard for his seat, Raikkonen’s performance convinced the Ferrari bosses to give him another one-year deal.
|2016 Comparison||KIMI RAIKKONEN||SEBASTIAN VETTEL|
|Top 5 Finishes||11||15|
New Regulations and Car in 2017 Brings New Hope
Ferrari was back at the top fighting the dominant Mercedes team in 2017. The new regulations were a great fillip for the Prancing Horse and Vettel challenged for the drivers’ championship. Raikkonen was not in the title fight, but the 2017 car seemed to suit the Finn better.
Qualifying has been the Achilles heel for Raikkonen for many seasons. But in 2017 in Monaco, Raikkonen finally clinched that elusive pole position. This was the first time he was on pole since the French GP in 2008. He was leading the Monaco GP, until team strategy put his teammate Vettel in the lead and gave him the win. The normally ice cool Finn seemed genuinely upset on the podium because of the turn of events.
Even as his teammate was amassing five race wins that season, Raikkonen was still looking for his first win since his return to Ferrari. At the Hungarian GP, he was a close second to his teammate and appeared faster, as Vettel wrestled with a steering column malfunction. With Vettel in the fight for the drivers’ title, there was no way that the team would allow Raikkonen to pass him and win the race. So the race victory eluded him yet again.
The statistics that season did not reflect the improved performance from Raikkonen. He scored 64.7% of the point tally of Vettel. But his performance was enough to get yet another one-year contract at Ferrari.
|2017 Comparison||KIMI RAIKKONEN||SEBASTIAN VETTEL|
|Top 5 Finishes||13||15|
The Lost Opportunities in the 2018 Season
Four races into the season, Raikkonen has made a good start to the season. The qualifying record against Vettel looks lopsided (1-3), but does not really tell the story. In Australia, Raikkonen qualified second, in front of Vettel by one-hundredth of a second. At the Bahrain GP, Vettel beat Raikkonen to pole by a mere 0.143 seconds.
In China, it was an even close margin, a mere 0.087 seconds separated him from the pole lap of his teammate. At the next race in Azerbaijan, Raikkonen was on a lap that would have beaten Vettel’s pole lap comfortably, but a mistake in the last sector saw him botch the opportunity.
To see Raikkonen running his teammate so close in qualifying is a very encouraging sign. Vettel is one of the best qualifiers in F1 history. Also, in the free practice sessions in 2018, Raikkonen has frequently been faster than Vettel.
In race trim, Raikkonen is third in the drivers’ championship, trailing Vettel by 18 points. But a third position in Australia due to the Virtual Safety Car saw Raikkonen drop a place, even as Vettel benefited to grab an unlikely win. In Bahrain, a pitstop mishap which was not his fault led to a DNF and a loss of points. Though the Finn trails his teammate at this point, undoubtedly this is the best start to the season he has had in years.
|2018 Comparison||KIMI RAIKKONEN||SEBASTIAN VETTEL|
|Top 5 Finishes||3||3|
Speculation about the 2019 Season
Raikkonen will be out of contract at the end of the season. This is the third year in a row that he is on a one-year contract and the speculation about next season has already begun, with talk of Daniel Ricciardo replacing him.
The Finn nicknamed “the Iceman” for his calm temperament has taken this in his stride. As Raikkonen himself says:“It’s been the same story every year since I can remember, maybe 15 years, every year I’m out. I’ll do my stuff on my side. I enjoy the racing, that’s the only reason I’m here. The rest, we’ll see how it plays out. In the team we know what we want to do and if all those things fit together with all our feeling we’ll see what happens. Right now all I want to do is well it’s a long season and a long way until the end of the year.”
It is no secret that Vettel enjoys a warm relationship with his teammate and is a strong supporter. Speaking to Autosport, Vettel said:“I think one thing is always to look at the result and the other is if you look a little bit deeper. It’s been incredibly close this year so far. To be honest, most of the Fridays I think he had the upper hand so far. Here and there I was struggling to understand the car and feel the car. Knowing him, knowing his strength, he’s incredibly talented and able to drive around problems. If you look at the previous years the image is a bit distorting. It wasn’t as one-sided as you might think if you look at the results.”
What Lies Ahead For Raikkonen
But what will the top management at Ferrari decide? Raikkonen will be 39-years old by the end of the season. If he continues in his current strong trajectory of form, it would be hard for the team to end his career. But with the availability of one of the top drivers on the grid like Ricciardo and with an eye on the future, they might be convinced to do otherwise.
At this point, it is still in the hands of Raikkonen, if we will see him on the grid for his 17th season in 2019. His legion of fans will sure wish to see him around for another season. But before that they would like him to secure that elusive race win in his second stint at Ferrari and play a big role in the drivers’ championship this year.
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