Race Blog
Spain 2015

Yesterday's man

Come on, be honest – it’s all getting a little boring, isn’t it? Wearing very thin, tedious and predictable…

Monotone, dull, dismissive, deliberately difficult, arrogant, surly, and rude, Kimi Raikkonen’s off-track behaviour is bad. On-track, it’s not much better. 

Disappointingly slow in the rejuvenated Ferrari, the Finn is way off the pace of his four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

Anyone who heard the Spanish Grand Prix FP2 exchange between Kimi and his engineer Dave Greenwood will be left in no doubt as to the lack of motivation the Finn appears to have.

Imagine Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel being part of this exchange:

Räikkönen: “Do you want me to keep going and doing laps and laps because I am getting nothing out of this? We are just putting laps on the engine. I’ll do it if you want, but…”

Greenwood: “Understood Kimi, let's get some of the test items done and we'll carry on for now.”

Consider that Friday’s practice sessions – in this highly restricted F1 testing era we live in – are vital to the development of a car’s speed, aero performance, power unit improvement and drivability. Added to this is the fact that Ferrari have changed something in the order of 90 per cent of the aerodynamic surfaces on their car, meaning that Vettel and Raikkonen needed to maximise the available on-track time – one driving the new spec, the other the old from Saturday onwards – to confirm the downforce-point gains that the white-coated factory-based boffins have discovered.

No wonder – in a desperate and very possibly futile attempt to encourage the Finn to wake up – Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene is withholding Raikkonen’s new contract.

For many F1 paddock insiders Raikkonen’s character has always presented something of a conundrum. On many an occasion during his F1 career he’s been devastatingly fast, playing a leading role in some of the most memorable races of modern times, exhibiting a flair and ability at the wheel so utterly at odds with his blandness outside the car.

Watch him ‘enjoying’ an autograph session. Absolutely no engagement with fans who, in response to Raikkonen’s chilly aloofness – bizarrely – appear to adore their unemotional, robotic hero.

The constantly perplexing phenomenon of seeing and hearing Far Eastern fans so utterly besotted with the monosyllabic pale-faced Finn is mystifying in the extreme. Some say it's the blond hair - a colour unobtainable, naturally at least, in that part of the world - but I think there must be more to it than that. Who knows?!

I simply don't buy it any more. When as a spotty 21-year-old he arrived at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, Raikkonen quickly asserted himself, all at once both impressing and puzzling many with his seemingly constant down-in-the-mouth demeanour and on-track brilliance. Of course there have been famous – nay infamous – quotes uttered along the way. Who can forget the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix version of Martin Brundle’s gridwalk? Asked why he had not attended the front-of-grid ceremony with Brazilian footballing legend Pele to mark Michael Schumacher’s retirment, Kimi uttered the unforgettable phrase – live on UK prime-time TV remember – "No, I was taking a shit." Nice.

While many believe all this remote-standoffishness is the Finn’s default setting, I’m not convinced. Sure, back in the day it may well have been the case, some kind of distance-inducing defence mechanism – but make no mistake, Kimi knew full well, when saying what he said to Brundle, that his paymasters at McLaren would have been disgusted and appalled at his four-letter allusion to ordure.

I think a lot of it is an act. Raikkonen is not stupid and is very well aware of how he is perceived, and while in his early F1 career one can accept the young man from the chilly north was a tad overwhelmed, that’s not the case in 2015. Shuffling about out of the car, and behaving like an irresponsible hooligan in it, is just not cool. Driving like a petulant boy racer in a sink estate, Raikkonen’s appallingly dangerous ‘undertake’ of two cars – so effectively making the busy Bahrain pit lane into a three-lane highway – was irresponsible in the extreme.

As the Ferrari sped through the Sauber team’s pit stop box the car could easily have hit a team mechanic, an FIA official and/or a photographer. Needless to say, serious injuries could have been the least of our concerns. The fact that a simple reprimand was the Finn’s only punishment reflected very poorly on the powers that be.

If Lewis Hamilton announces soon that he’s staying at Mercedes, expect rumours of a Valtteri Bottas-aimed Ferrari swoop for 2016 to gather apace.

It’s time to tattoo over the ‘Ice’ on Raikkonen’s left forearm. ‘Yesterday’s’ would be far more fitting…

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