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Is Kimi Raikkonen Focused on Money or Titles with Ferrari Move for F1 2014?

Scott MitchellContributor ISeptember 23, 2013

Is Kimi Raikkonen Focused on Money or Titles with Ferrari Move for F1 2014?

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    Raikkonen will leave Lotus after this season finishes
    Raikkonen will leave Lotus after this season finishesClive Mason/Getty Images

    Kimi Raikkonen's words in last Thursday's official FIA press conference before the Singapore Grand Prix weekend kicked off were typical of the Finn.

    He was cold, unmoved and matter-of-fact as he gave his reasons for leaving Lotus at the end of the year for Ferrari: "The reasons why I left from the team is purely on the money side. They haven’t got my salary."

    There is, however, more to Raikkonen's words than is immediately obvious. He's a world champion who is still capable of fighting for Grand Prix victories on a regular basis. 

    His motivation has been questioned in the past, but is he really moving back to Ferrari—a team that paid him handsomely not to drive in 2010—simply to top up his coffer? This writer's not convinced.

Contractual Obligations

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    Boullier was disappointed Raikkonen aired his laundry in public
    Boullier was disappointed Raikkonen aired his laundry in publicMark Thompson/Getty Images

    Raikkonen has a contract with Lotus. He fulfils his side of things by turning up, racing and being very good at it. He has won twice with the team and has been the driving force for two seasons after a comeback some doubted would be successful.

    He has been paid his basic salary, that cannot be stressed enough. Given the rumours surrounding the team for the past few months it's important to make it clear that Raikkonen's not been left scouring the Enstone corridors for lost pennies. 

    However, he's not been awarded performance-based bonuses, and that's the sticking point. Raikkonen's not being petulant when he says he's leaving because he hasn't been paid—this is his job, he has an agreed salary with conditions and they have not been met.

    Team principal Eric Boullier expressed to Sky Sports F1 his dissatisfaction with Raikkonen for disclosing the pay dispute. But Raikkonen was asked a question and, given the circumstances, was he really wrong to answer?

Total Commitment

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    Singapore is one of F1's most grueling races
    Singapore is one of F1's most grueling racesClive Mason/Getty Images

    Let's, for a moment, assume Raikkonen's concerned only about the money that lands in his bank account, and the value of his 2014 drive is his main priority given he is all but mathematically out of the 2013 title race.

    Now, consider that the Finn's relationship with his current team is tenuous. After all, he has not been paid performance-based bonuses by Lotus, hence his impending departure.

    Then, with all this bubbling away in the background, Raikkonen starts to suffer back pain—which Autosport discovered is a legacy of a 2001 testing crash—in the early stages of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, one of the F1 calendar's toughest Grands Prix. 

    These are the circumstances, that's without doubt. The Finn is in substantial pain and can only qualify 13th for one of the longest races of the year, driving on a bumpy street circuit in the sweltering Singapore heat.

    It would take something remarkable to salvage anything significant from the weekend. This man, whose pocket linings are of more interest to him than anything else, would need to deliver one hell of a performance.

    But hold on. He's not been paid for those performance-based bonuses of late. Why then would a man so fickle as this, battling a long-running and painful injury to boot, bother? Why, when the team had reserve driver Davide Valsecchi on standby, would he put himself through it for no financial reward?

    He'd already given the answer, unwittingly, in the official FIA press conference three days before. He earns money because he's a great Formula One driver. But he's not a Formula One driver for the money.

    Why is he here?

    "I like to race."

Highly Motivated

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    Raikkonen's charge was remarkbale
    Raikkonen's charge was remarkbaleMark Thompson/Getty Images

    There's a difference between commitment and motivation. Raikkonen raced because he was committed to the team and committed to the sport he enjoys. He excelled on Sunday because he remains a driver incredibly motivated to succeed.

    That he was there on the starting grid was a testament to the former, and his remarkable rise from 13th to third on a street circuit—aided admittedly by smart strategic decision by his Lotus team—was a wonderful validation of the Finn's motivation, which has been so often questioned in the past.

    A cliche in motor racing is that nothing cures a physical problem like adrenaline. When the revs rise and the lights come on, all else is forgotten, even your own body's limits.

    Only Raikkonen knows what level of pain he was in on Sunday night. But every person watching on was made acutely aware that one thing motivates him more than topping up his bank balance: driving.

Financial Concerns Run Deeper Than His Own Pockets?

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    Could Raikkonen expect to fight Ferrari or Red Bull next year with Lotus?
    Could Raikkonen expect to fight Ferrari or Red Bull next year with Lotus?Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Ask yourself this: If a team is incapable of paying its driver's salary on time, can you say with confidence it will be able to design and build a car to totally new regulations and challenge for a world championship?

    That's what Kimi Raikkonen may well have pondered as he looked in his mirror in the days and weeks leading up to his decision to quit Lotus for Ferrari.

    Autosport magazine's in-depth report on the true cost of F1 revealed that Lotus' £130 million budget is almost half that of Red Bull and Ferrari and that total actually exceeds its expected income of around £120 million.

    Pound-for-pound, Lotus is (at present) the most competitive team on the grid. But that comes after five years in the same regulation cycle. Even if the status quo remained next season in terms of funding, could it realistically expect to challenge the might of Ferrari and Red Bull, or match the likes of Mercedes and McLaren?

    Then understand that it has lost key technical staff like the highly rated James Allison and Dirk de Beer to Ferrari, and you begin to see why the team's future may well be far less bright than its present. 

    That picture darkens further when you then factor in the distinct possibility of it running on a smaller budget than before, and the question marks appear over its ability to be totally committed in the design and build of its 2014 challenger and, ultimately, be competitive.

    Boullier's adamant it will not come to that, and Crash.net reported he has reassured Raikkonen he will get the money he is owed and the team has the finances in place for the future.

    Nonetheless, it's hard to blame Raikkonen for being sceptical. So perhaps he did leave Ferrari for the money the team has, not just what he's offered. And team money in F1 is the source of competitiveness. So really, Raikkonen's leaving for the chance to win. Is that so bad?

Conclusion: There's Motivation Behind the Money

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    Raikkonen still has the motivation to succeed in F1
    Raikkonen still has the motivation to succeed in F1Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    It would be harsh to suggest that Kimi Raikkonen's move to Ferrari is because he wants one big payday before his F1 career is over for good.

    While it is true that the financial problems he has had in his dealings with Lotus ultimately prompted him to leave, he has not gone to Ferrari simply for the large salary they, more than any team, can afford to pay him.

    The Finn sees the Maranello outfit as his best chance of continuing to fight for Grands Prix victories and maybe even one more world championship. He's putting himself up against Fernando Alonso, who is still regarded by many as the best driver on the grid.

    It's a challenge in many different ways but, as has been made clear throughout this piece, his desire to win titles drove that decision. His salary grumbles with Lotus was merely a catalyst for the change.


    Is Kimi Raikkonen being greedy with his 2014 Ferrari switch? Let us know what you think on this issue. Get in touch in the comments section below or via Twitter. Follow B/R's dedicated F1 account @BR_F1 or this writer personally @ScottMitchell89.

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