Inside Line: The not so mighty Finns
It was not a very good Chinese Grand Prix for the mighty men from Finland.
Kimi Raikkonen… the Iceman melted in his Ferrari cockpit in Shanghai and I really question the value of having him at Ferrari beyond this season.
For the record, in my book, Raikkonen in his heyday was the one of the ballsiest race driver I ever witnessed witnessed in a Formula 1 car. A Ronnie Peterson style driver with huge reserves of natural talent and a non nonsense approach to his racing.
Raikkonen’s time at McLaren was memorable for the thrills he gave fans, and inevitably he built an army of die-hard supporters. He then carried that form over to Ferrari and duly won his first Formula 1 World Championship with the Reds, but that was 2007 (a decade ago!) – when he won six races on the way to his title. Was that his last good season?
Since then he has only won four times in Formula 1…
He had his Nascar truck and rally adventures in 2010 and 2011 before returning to Formula 1 with Lotus. He rejoined Ferrari in 2014 but the results show that he has not delivered when compared to his teammates – Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel – during that period.
This year, granted only two races into the championship, he has been thoroughly out performed by Vettel.
In China he was easy prey for the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. He appears to have lost the legendary race craft that made him famous and widely admired in the first place.
Then proceeded to hold up his teammate while complaining angrily over the radio about issues he was having with his car.
Okay it can be accepted that there was something amiss with his Ferrari, but the fact that at the same time he held up his teammate needs to be questioned. At the point of the race Vettel was clearly faster.
Last thing Vettel needs right now is internal friction between drivers and after all Raikkonen is his ‘mate’ so they say. But the German will be asking himself why his ‘buddy’ tripped him up during a crucial part of the race.
The time wasted behind the second Ferrari might have made the difference between finishing runner-up by several seconds or seriously challenging Hamilton in the final stages of the race.
No doubt the Iceman will have a couple of hot races during the course of the season, probably around the time when decisions about his future become more pressing.
But a Formula 1 season is 20 races long and speed coupled to consistency is required throughout all episodes, not on the occasions that the real Kimi decides to step up to the plate.
Whatever the case, Raikkonen’s sell by date is here now. There are too many drivers on the grid deserving a crack at Ferrari right now. Talk of the Finn staying another year is already wafting through the paddock, and all I can say is: bad idea.
The other Finn, Valterri Bottas has found himself in the best car on the grid this season. But Mercedes made it clear, when they handed him a one year contract, that he needed to deliver from day one.
To be honest he was superb in testing and he did all that was required of him in his debut for the Silver Arrows in Australia. New team, new season, new everything for him and he took home the third place trophy. Bravo!
Fast forward two weeks to China and he commits the most basic of rookie mistakes – do rookies even make that kind of mistake?
Spinning while warming up his tyres during a safety car period! And these are supposed to be the best race drivers on the planet – he highly rated, by some, and supposedly among the best of the best.
I am not alone in doubting Bottas even before Mercedes made him the chosen one. What did he really do at Williams? Sure at he beat veteran Felipe Massa whose best years were around a decade ago.
Niki Lauda estimates that Bottas is half a second down on Lewis Hamilton in race trim, but one would imagine that the Finn will close the gap as he becomes more accustomed to the Mercedes way.
He has another 18 races to make his mark and entrench himself with the best team in Formula 1. Ideally he would like to leave every grand prix with a thick tick in the box. Alas he has a fat cross on his China box.
Time will tell if Raikkonen remains at Ferrari beyond 2017 and whether Bottas is the man for Mercedes, but what is sure is that neither can afford another weekend like they both experienced in China.
Inside Line Opinion by Paul Velasco