Marchionne: Raikkonen’s future depends on him
Kimi Raikkonen’s quest to keep his Ferrari seat beyond 2015, and remain in F1 beyond for that matter, took another backwards step after a wayward Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
The Finn, pushing to have the 2016 ‘option’ in his contract triggered, struggled in qualifying and then crashed heavily at the start of Sunday’s race. It follows the spin in Canada that cost Ferrari a podium place and angered boss Maurizio Arrivabene.
On Sunday, stewards decided not to apportion blame, but Fernando Alonso said he only collided with Raikkonen after the Ferrari driver lost control due to wheelspin.
“I was lucky not to hit him on the head,” said Alonso, who like Raikkonen was checked in the medical centre after the serious crash. It was a bit of a strange one as he must have lost his car in fifth gear.”
Ferrari boss Arrivabene admitted he did not know the exact reason for the crash, “When I first looked at the pictures I thought Fernando had touched Kimi, but that’s not true.”
Then in Ferrari’s official post-race statement, the Italian did not mention Raikkonen even once. Kimi himself said the wheelspin at such high speed was “unusual”. “Suddenly (I) went left and ended up there”.
Arrivabene told reporters: “Unfortunately there was no onboard footage from Fernando, so we need to trust Kimi. He said that the wheels spun, that’s it.”
The details of the crash aside, it is clear it came at the worst possible moment for the 2007 world champion, amid Ferrari’s hot deliberations about the future.
Asked when he is going to decide the identity of Sebastian Vettel’s teammate for 2016, Arrivabene answered: “When the time is right, both for us and for him (Raikkonen).
“It’s not about what happened (in Austria) yesterday or today, although of course we have a deadline but I’m not going to say when it is.”
Another bad sign for Raikkonen is that his incidents in Canada and now Austria were witnessed first-hand by Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari president.
“Kimi should not be underestimated,” Marchionne said on Sunday, “as he is a world champion. He has given and he gives this team a lot. He is currently in a difficult situation, but we are here to support him.”
But Marchionne was also quoted by Corriere della Sera: “His future depends on him – he must decide whether he brings the results or whether he gives up.”
World champion turned outspoken pundit Jacques Villeneuve thinks Ferrari will not rush its final decision.
“Kimi does not have another good team to go to,” he is quoted by the Finnish broadcaster MTV3, “and Ferrari knows it. So why would they sign him quickly?”
Villeneuve also said there are doubts about the leading candidate to replace Raikkonen; another Finn, Valtteri Bottas.
“He (Bottas) has done some great races,” the Canadian said, “but he is sometimes behind Felipe (Massa). He is a fast driver, but is he better than Kimi?”
Kimi will want to forget about Austria ASAP, but alas when things are tallied up at the end of the season it will be tough justify the Finn remaining at Ferrari beyond 2015.
As it looks right now Ferrari would be shortsighted to continue with the man who brought them their last F1 title back in 2007 as there are a number of drivers who would easily slot into one of the most coveted seats on the grid.
Furthermore Kimi clearly does not enjoy F1 anymore, he is sullen and downright rude which was endearing when he won, but right now he is merely marking time and is liability to the Ferrari’s efforts to dethrone Mercedes.
Replacements who immediately spring to mind are of course the obvious: Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg. Even a guy like Jean Eric Vergne would give it a fair crack if he was given the opportunity – he hangs out in the Ferrari pit garage every race weekend so why not put him to good use?