Kimi Raikkonen Retirement Talk: Finn Risks Quitting F1 with a Whimper in 2015

Matthew WalthertFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 20:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari walks through the paddock during practice ahead of the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring on June 20, 2014 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Kimi Raikkonen's return to Ferrari and his battle with Fernando Alonso, his new teammate and fellow world champion, were supposed to be two of the big stories of this Formula One season.

However, the Italian team failed to build an engine to match Mercedes or a chassis that could compete with Red Bull. Consequently, Ferrari—currently third in the Constructors' Championship—is closer to Williams and Force India in fourth and fifth than they are to the top two teams.

Raikkonen has spent most of the season trailing his teammate.
Raikkonen has spent most of the season trailing his teammate.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The bigger surprise, though, has been the difference between Raikkonen and Alonso. The Spaniard is dominating his teammate—and it is not even close.

With the news that Raikkonen will likely retire from F1 at the end of the 2015 season, per Autosport's Jonathan Noble and Glenn Freeman, there is a real chance that the Iceman's career will end with a whimper.

While Alonso is sitting a solid fourth in the championship, with Ferrari's only podium of the season and only one finish below sixth place, Raikkonen is in twelfth and has not beaten his teammate yet. The Finn's lowest previous finish in the Drivers' standings was 10th in 2001, his rookie season.

This could also be the first season since 2001 that Raikkonen does not score a podium finish (he was fourth on two occasions that year but has not finished higher than seventh in 2014).

Raikkonen's impressive form with Lotus over the last two years make his struggles this season even more shocking. In 2012, his first season back in F1 after a two-year hiatus, he hung around the periphery of the title fight most of the season and picked up a victory in Abu Dhabi, ultimately finishing third in the championship.

Last year, Raikkonen started strong with a win in Australia and three second-place finishes in the first five races. After the Hungarian Grand Prix, round 10 of 19, he was second in the championship, 38 points behind Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen won the 2013 Australian GP for Lotus.
Raikkonen won the 2013 Australian GP for Lotus.Rob Griffith/Associated Press

The German won every race for the rest of the season, while Raikkonen managed just two more podium finishes before a first-lap retirement in Abu Dhabi and subsequent back surgery ended his season. Still, Raikkonen finished fifth in the championship (and could have been as high as third, had he not missed the last two races).

Free from Lotus' limited resources—apparently the team could not even afford his salary—2015 was supposed to be a triumphant return to Maranello for Raikkonen. His 2007 title is still the last Drivers' Championship won by the Scuderia, and it does not look like they will be adding another anytime soon.

There has been plenty of speculation as to the reasons for Raikkonen's struggles in 2014, and it is clear that he is not comfortable in the F14 T. NBC's Will Buxton, writing on his personal blog, speculated that the Finn's lack of pace stems from his difficulties getting used to the new brake-by-wire system and finding a comfort zone with Ferrari's power steering.

Raikkonen should eventually come to grips with his car and may even be able to challenge his teammate this year, but they will still be fighting with Force India and Williams instead of Mercedes and Red Bull. And with Raikkonen set to walk away at the end of next season, there is not much time to right the ship.

Mattiacci and Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo.
Mattiacci and Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo.Luca Bruno/Associated Press

The Ferrari team is in a state of upheaval right now, having replaced their team principal, Stefano Domenicali, with the inexperienced (in racing circles) Marco Mattiacci.

Last week, Corriere dello Sport (via ESPN F1) reported that Ferrari's chief engine designer, Luca Marmorini, had left the team as well. Mattiacci told the Italian paper, "we need to prepare a different team for 2015."

A complete housecleaning may indeed be the answer at Ferrari, but it is unlikely to produce immediate results. Mercedes already have more than a year's head start with their revolutionary power unit, and it will probably take Ferrari more than one season to catch them.

And that leaves us with the unappetizing prospect of Raikkonen—one of the most exciting and enigmatic drivers of his era—going out on a low note.

Before the season, we were teased with memories and visions of the epic battles fought by Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren in the late 1980s, but those visions have not rematerialised, at least not at Ferrari.

I hear there is a decent scrap going on over at Mercedes.


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