Kimi Raikkonen Needs Some Good Luck or His Spell at Ferrari Will Fail

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2014

When Kimi Raikkonen was signed by Ferrari in September 2013, it was widely assumed that the Finnish driver would provide Fernando Alonso with a much needed kick up the backside.

There was a feeling last summer that Alonso had grown far too comfortable within the Prancing Horse, to the point where the two-time world champion felt in control of the team, rather than the team being in control of their own employee.

In response to Alonso's increasingly unhealthy grip on Ferrari, the outfit's president, Luca di Montezemolo—barely a month after rebuking the Spaniard via the team's official website—completed the signing of Raikkonen.

Raikkonen had excelled for Lotus, the underdogs of the grid, since returning to Formula One in 2012 after a two-year flirtation with the World Rally Championship.

In 37 grands prix in a black and gold car, the 2007 world champion recorded two victories and 15 podium finishes, breaking Michael Schumacher's long-standing record for the most consecutive points finishes in the process.

The reasons for Ferrari's re-signing of Raikkonen only four years after cancelling his contract to create an Alonso-sized space in their driver line-up, however, extended far beyond his rapid re-adjustment to F1, his impressive turn of speed and his remarkable levels of consistency.

His apolitical, candid personality would make him immune to the mind games which Alonso would doubtlessly thrust upon him in the heat of battle.

Whilst Alonso would attempt to gain a psychological advantage by issuing statements to the press, Raikkonen would sleep soundly at the back of the garage before waking up, jumping in the car and posting a faster lap time.

Talk about doing your talking on the track.

It was a compelling theory, but one that has so far failed to translate into reality.

Ferrari's failure to take advantage of the 2014 regulation changes and produce a race-winning car has blunted the excitement surrounding the presence of two world champions—two of the finest drivers of their generation in the same team.

And the struggles of the Prancing Horse have rather understandably had a greater effect on the performances of Raikkonen—who surely found the F14 T something of a culture shock after two years of sitting in an incredibly drivable and responsive Lotus. 

The statistics of the season so far, as a consequence, reflect poorly on the Finn.

In the six grand prix weekends in 2014, Raikkonen has out-qualified Alonso on only two occasions, starting outside the top 10 twice.

He has failed to beat the Spaniard in a race thus far, with a highest finishing position of seventh (achieved in Australia and Spain) compared to Alonso's solitary podium finish in China.

And while Raikkonen has finished in 12th on two occasions, Alonso's lowest finishing position so far is ninth in Bahrain—the race in which Ferrari's fundamental lack of straight line pace had its greatest effect.

The difference in performances and results between Alonso and Raikkonen has cast doubt over the latter's true greatness.

The loser of Ferrari's inter-team grudge match was always bound to see their place in the history of Formula One, and the credibility of their career's achievements, go under review. However, it would be unfair to lump Raikkonen with Giancarlo Fisichella, Nelson Piquet Jr and Felipe Massa in the list of Alonso doormats just yet.

It is often said that the most successful and talented athletes make their own luck, or simply don't need it.

But Raikkonen, one of the current grid's five world champions, is currently crying out for divine intervention.

The Finn has encountered several technical problems already this season, losing valuable track time in free practice sessions in Australia, Bahrain, China and Monaco while early collisions with the McLaren of Kevin Magnussen dented his hopes in Malaysia and Bahrain.

After setting only four laps in the second practice session ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, it seemed like a case of the same old story for Raikkonen—but his impressive performance over the remainder of the weekend suggests a corner may finally have been turned.

Despite qualifying seven tenths behind Alonso, Raikkonen displayed the opportunism and quick thinking which defined his Lotus career by sneaking ahead of his teammate and Daniel Ricciardo into St Devote, before being elevated to third after Sebastian Vettel encountered reliability issues of his own. 

The 34-year-old then found himself pulling away from Ricciardo—who had arguably looked more comfortable than any other driver over the entire Monte Carlo weekend.

Raikkonen was potentially on course for his first podium finish of the season until the safety car was deployed on Lap 25 due to Adrian Sutil's crash at the Nouvelle Chicane.

And although that particular safety car period will be remembered for Lewis Hamilton's fury over team radio, it played a decisive role in ruining Raikkonen's afternoon. Max Chilton's Marussia tripped over the Ferrari at Mirabeau during the irritating shuffling of lapped cars, leaving the No. 7 car with a puncture.

Raikkonen recovered admirably—albeit with the aid of other drivers' problems.

He was running in eighth in the closing stages before lunging his car down the inside of Magnussen, his sparring partner, at the Grand Hotel Hairpin, overcooking the 30 mph turn and knocking his front wing against the barrier.

The subsequent pit stop presented Raikkonen, at that point with nothing to play for, the opportunity to take his frustration out on the Monaco circuit.

And he did so with panache—setting the fastest lap of the race on Lap 75 of 78, which the official F1 website recorded as seven tenths faster than the previous fastest lap, leaving us contemplating what could have been.

Raikkonen commented on his misfortune to Ferrari's official website, stating:

This was a very unlucky day for me, a real shame after getting a good start and managing to move up to third place. The car was handling well and had a good pace.

Unfortunately, in a Safety Car period, my car was hit by Chilton’s Marussia and I had to make an unscheduled stop as my right rear tyre was damaged and that meant the end of any chance of getting a good result.

I am sorry I still haven’t managed to get a good result because we are working very hard. We know there is a lot to do as our rivals are still a long way ahead, but I am sure that if we continue down this path the results will come, maybe with a bit more luck.

It is in the interests of not only Ferrari and Raikkonen but Formula One itself that the 2007 world champion's luck changes soon.

The subject of motivation is often overplayed in reference to the Finn, but there is a risk that he will not hesitate in once again finding alternative routes to success and enjoyment in other formulae if his fortunes in Formula One do not improve.

And if that does occur, Ferrari may turn to Jules Bianchi, who benefited from stacks of good luck on Sunday to secure Marussia's first F1 points.

But despite Bianchi's obvious potential, the prospect of the Frenchman alongside Alonso is not as mouthwatering as a Raikkonen/Alonso partnership.

However, the chances are that Raikkonen's luck will change in due course and the battle that promised so much will deliver.

After all, he can't have much bad luck left in the tank. 


    Monaco Grand Prix: Ferrari & Red Bull are favourites, says Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

    Ferrari logo

    Monaco Grand Prix: Ferrari & Red Bull are favourites, says Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

    BBC Sport
    via BBC Sport

    Vettel: FIA only consults drivers to “tick the box” | 2018 F1 season

    Ferrari logo

    Vettel: FIA only consults drivers to “tick the box” | 2018 F1 season

    Dieter Rencken
    via RaceFans

    Ferrari form not as bad as it looks – Raikkonen

    Ferrari logo

    Ferrari form not as bad as it looks – Raikkonen

    Formula 1® - The Official F1® Website
    via Formula 1® - The Official F1® Website

    Ferrari wing mirrors banned by FIA

    Ferrari logo

    Ferrari wing mirrors banned by FIA

    BBC Sport
    via BBC Sport