Formula One is as much about entertainment as it is about cold-blooded competition. That is why double points will be awarded for the final race this season, and that is why so many people are complaining about the lack of noise produced by the new hybrid V6 power units.
So far in 2014, there has been another element missing from the sport, one that straddles the line between the competitive and entertaining sides of the sport (even if not intentionally so). That element is Kimi Raikkonen.
He is not missing the same way he was when he decided to take the last two (or three—depending on how you view his first-corner accident in Abu Dhabi) races of the 2013 season off. No, the Iceman has lined up on the grid for the first three races this year, but he has not really been in those races.
His season started with a lacklustre outing in Australia, and two collisions with Kevin Magnussen compromised his races in Malaysia and Bahrain. His finishes so far—seventh, 12th and 10th—have left him with only seven points, good for 12th place in the Drivers' Championship.
Of course, Raikkonen, winner of 20 grands prix and the 2007 world championship, has not suddenly forgotten how to drive. His underpowered Ferrari, along with Magnussen, have played a large role in his poor results so far this year.
But those poor results hurt more than just Raikkonen. As one of the most popular drivers in F1, when he is the centre of attention it helps promote the sport. Whether he is "having a s**t" or taking a self-guided tour of Sao Paulo, Raikkonen has provided a lot of entertaining, refreshingly-candid moments for F1 fans.
Raikkonen is not the only driver to speak his mind whenever he feels like it, but he is certainly one of the best drivers to do so. The more successful a driver becomes, the less incentive there is for him to rock the boat, potentially upsetting the team and sponsors who make him rich.
That is why it is so disappointing, with Raikkonen's career likely nearing its end, to see him stuck in the midfield, frustrated with his team, his car and himself.
It's much better to have him fighting for victories and dishing out his laconic humour than listening to him complain about another poor performance in his inexplicably (considering the size of Ferrari's budget) slow car.
Aside from the Iceman's missing character, fans are also being cheated out of a potentially all-time classic duel between two world champion teammates. Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso were supposed to be one of the star pairings of the season. Instead, their position has been usurped by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
This weekend in China, things do not seem to be getting any better for Raikkonen. He completed only one lap during the first free practice session while Alonso topped the timesheet. In the second session, the Finn completed 25 laps, but his best time was nearly a second slower than his teammate's.
Even with new team principal Marco Mattiacci at the helm, it is difficult to see Ferrari making significant gains in the short-term relative to Mercedes, Red Bull and even the Mercedes power unit customers.
The appeal of F1 is the chance to see the best drivers in the world racing in the best cars. Right now, though, two of the best drivers—and one of the best characters—do not have anything close to the best car.
For the sake of the sport—and for the sanity of millions of tifosi around the world—hopefully that will change.
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