Kimi Raikkonen vs Sebastian Vettel – Intra-team rivalries will be fascinating to watch in 2018, as has always been the case in Formula 1. With most teams looking to maximize their points from every race, none would like to have a laggard amongst them.
But “laggard” is the exact word that Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne used to describe one of their drivers – Kimi Raikkonen – during the 2017 campaign. Kimi, one of the most popular drivers on the grid, would like to prove him wrong in 2018.
Intra-Team Battles: Can Kimi Raikkonen Push Sebastian Vettel in 2018?
Both the drivers in the Scuderia Ferrari stable – Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel – are of the highest pedigree. The former is the last drivers’ champion from Ferrari, while the latter is a four-time world champion with Red Bull Racing. Both drivers have been teammates for three seasons and have generally got on well with each other. But, over the last three years, Vettel has generally had the upper hand over Raikkonen. Last season, Vettel was 15-5 up on the Finn in the qualifying battle, while in the races Vettel got five wins in comparison to none for Raikkonen.
Raikkonen was well on course for victory in the Monaco Grand Prix but was thwarted by a questionable strategy during the pitstops to put him behind the eventual winner Vettel. The Maranello-based squad is notorious for always keeping a clear No.1 driver. The team put their maximum resources behind that driver, while the other (No.2) driver is used like a pawn supporting the team strategy. Raikkonen has played the team-game well, but will need to raise his game if he wants to leave his mark in his likely swansong year.
Raikkonen no pushover
The capabilities of Kimi Raikkonen have never been in doubt either within the paddock or among the fans. The 2007 champion has been among the brightest of stars of his generation. With more than 270 starts, 91 podiums and 20 wins in Formula 1, the leading teams should be falling over each other to offer him a race seat.
But, it is the manner in which the mighty has fallen that is the cause of concern. From the flair and chutzpah that he exhibited in abundance from 2003 to 2013, Raikkonen being reduced to a supporting role is not digested well by his legions of fans around the world. Still, at the ripe old age of 38, Ferrari is struggling to find his worthy successor, which in itself speaks volumes about his pedigree.
This is Raikkonen’s second stint in F1 after he took a break in 2010 and 2011 to try his hand at rallying. In 2012, he made a dramatic return to Formula 1 with the Lotus team and showed no signs of rust. His great run of form with Lotus prompted Ferrari to bring him back at Maranello to partner Alonso, where he has stayed till date, generally overshadowed by his teammates.
Vettel has a higher calling
When Sebastian Vettel joined the iconic Ferrari team in 2015, he had the dream of emulating Michael Schumacher‘s success with the team. He has been reasonably successful with the team over the past three seasons, but far from the target he has in mind. Notably, the car was not class-leading until 2016, but 2017 provided him the best chance of a shot for a championship in scarlet red colors.
The car was a match to the Mercedes and Vettel got full backing from his team strategists and No.2 driver. However, he let the chance slip by in the second half of the season. With Lewis Hamilton equalling his tally of four titles, it will be a neck-to-neck race with him for the fifth title this year.
Team harmony can work either way
Maurizio Arrivabene, the team principal, vouches for the great harmony in the relationship between his team’s drivers. But this harmony can either propel the team to achieve more without any fetters holding them back, or can put them into a comfort zone where there is no healthy internal competition to push each other. Raikkonen has the potential to give Vettel a run for his money and the Italian team would do well to allow healthy competition between their drivers to give a concerted challenge to the Mercedes team.
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