Kimi Raikkonen's Crash: Analysing Freak Red Flag Incident at 2014 British GP

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2014

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 04:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari drives during practice ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on July 4, 2014 in Northampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Drew Gibson/Getty Images)
Drew Gibson/Getty Images

The British Grand Prix is beginning to make a habit of creating compelling, exciting races which come dangerously close to turning into a disaster.

Last year's event at Silverstone Circuit, of course, was marred by a number of tyre explosions, which led to world champions Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso swerving across the track to avoid a face full of rubber.

The situation was so concerning that Charlie Whiting, Formula One's race director, admitted to that he came "quite close" to enforcing red flag conditions.

But Whiting, in the end, resisted the urge.

He tried his utmost to ignore the red button, presumably sent his best wishes to Pirelli boss Paul Hembery—who was watching his products burst into smithereens before his very eyes in front of an audience of a few million people—and allowed a tense, dramatic race to develop.

F1, to all intents and purposes, got away with one.

A year down the line, though, and there was no such dawdling, with the race halted within a few corners after a crash involving Raikkonen on the Wellington Straight.

The incident was arguably the most frightening Formula One shunt since the first-corner crash at the 2012 Belgium Grand Prix—if not the first-lap collision between Michael Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi at Abu Dhabi in 2010—with Raikkonen experiencing a force of 47G, according to Pete Gill of Sky Sports.

To put that into perspective, jet fighter pilots—according to the Daily Mail's Phil Duncan—rarely deal with any more than 12G.

Considering the sheer violence of the impact, it is staggering that the 2007 world champion climbed out of his car with little more than bruising to his knee and ankle, according to Autosport's Jonathan Noble.

Yet it would not be entirely unfair to suggest that Raikkonen could have done slightly more to prevent the accident from occurring.

As noted by Anthony Davidson, the former F1 driver, during Sky Sports' television coverage of the British Grand Prix, the Finn's car appeared twitchy in the opening sequence of corners:

Rui Vieira/Associated Press

The Ferrari F14 T has constantly struggled to find its feet under acceleration all season long, and that continued as Raikkonen eased his foot onto the pedal on the exit of the Loop, with the rear end stepping out of line.

The next corner of the lap, Aintree, requires drivers to jink to the left whilst in the process of acceleration, making it tailor-made for the Ferrari to run wide.

And sure enough, Raikkonen did, sliding off the track and onto the runoff area as those around him began the trek down the Wellington Straight.

If you were being harsh here, you would question the manner that Raikkonen rejoined the track, which, after all, turned a slight off-track excursion into something much more serious.

As you would expect from a leading driver, Raikkonen identified the one section of the runoff area without a strip of grass to make his return to the circuit—but he appeared to rejoin with too much speed and at too wide an angle.

His reasons for doing this are clear: Having started out of position in 18th on the grid, the Finn would have targeted the beginning of the race as the ideal opportunity to rescue his weekend and was therefore eager to prevent a further loss of ground to those ahead.

Those circumstances, and the general surge in adrenaline and competitiveness that comes with a grand prix start anyway, ultimately led to Raikkonen's crash.

The angle and speed at which he rejoined the track led to Raikkonen hitting a bump on the grass verge, unsettling the car and spitting it into the barrier beside the spectators' overpass, with the 34-year-old lucky not to hit the guardrail closer to the bridge's pillar.

Even with the impact at an angle, the sheer violence of the crash saw one of the Ferrari's tyres rebound across the track like a tennis ball, striking the rear of Max Chilton's Marussia when it could so easily have landed elsewhere with potentially devastating consequences.

Raikkonen's car itself also spun across the track into the paths of Kamui Kobayashi, the Caterham driver, and Williams' Felipe Massa, who produced one of the most heroic instances of avoiding action in recent memory.

The Brazilian's view of Raikkonen's crash was obscured as he was too busy sniffing around the rear of Kobayashi's Caterham on the Wellington Straight in his own bid to recover ground—but hit the brakes at the very first sight of dust kicked up by the Ferrari, sensing that something awry had occurred up the road.

Likewise, once the path had cleared to offer a first glimpse of Raikkonen twirling across the track, Massa began to manipulate his car to create a spin of his own, limiting the odds of a dreaded T-bone crash.

And with the ultra-low noses of the 2014-spec F1 cars, the notion of a Ferrari being scooped into the air at over 150 mph is not worth thinking about. 

The race that followed, after an hourlong delay to repair the stricken barrier, was stupendous.

We saw Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, arguably the best drivers on the grid, race head-to-head in a thrilling battle. We saw the championship leader, Nico Rosberg, retire from the lead of the race. And we saw a popular victor in Lewis Hamilton, the home hero.

Silverstone, hosting its 50th grand prix in 2014, has delivered again.

But it could have been so much worse.