Analysis: Can Kimi Raikkonen win a Formula 1 race again?
Kimi Raikkonen recently celebrated his 38th birthday. After another miserable year, it’s fair to question whether he can still win another Formula 1 race. His last race victory came at Melbourne in 2013 with Team Lotus (now Renault F1). Unfortunately, with his recent performances a lot of people are forced to conclude he can’t.
He caught a lot of eyes with his raw pace in the early 2000’s, becoming a title contender during 2005 and 2006 with McLaren and then finally winning his first and only title in 2007 with Ferrari. Following the 2009 season, he tried his hands at Rallying and NASCAR before returning to Formula 1 in 2012. Raikkonen’s return hasn’t been a straightforward one. This season symbolizes it.
Raikkonen’s subpar season start put him on the back foot in the title race to Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Valtteri Bottas. Although, Raikkonen came close to winning when he drove his car to pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix, he was denied victory by his own team when they swapped him and Vettel around from P1 and P2 during a round of pitstop. Similarly, during the Hungarian Grand Prix, Raikkonen wasn’t allowed to get past a struggling Vettel, who had steering issue.
Despite Raikkonen’s terrible performances, it’s important to break down where he struggles the most. Since 2015, Raikkonen has been quicker during qualifying than in race trim. Here are some stats to prove it.
Since Vettel joined Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2015, Raikkonen has managed just 11 podiums, while Vettel has managed 30 podiums. Furthermore, while Raikkonen has gone winless during the same period, Vettel has managed to 7 race victories.
Unsurprisingly, excluding DNFs’, Vettel has outperformed Raikkonen 10-4, 10-3 and 10-1 in races during the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons, respectively. The total being 30-8 in Vettel’s favour.
But Raikkonen’s qualifying performance has been stronger.
Excluding technical problems, Vettel outqualified Raikkonen 14-4 in 2015, Raikkonen outqualified Vettel 12-8 in 2016. But Vettel has been much stronger this season, and has significantly outqualified Raikkonen 11-4. The total being 33-20 in Vettel’s favour.
Although Vettel is leading the teammate rivalry in both races and qualifying, Raikkonen is a lot closer to him in qualifying.
Raikkonen has definitely been strong enough in some weekends to earn a victory, Monaco and Hungary for example, but has been denied victory both times by Ferrari. If Ferrari supported Raikkonen a little more, he could have won both the races and maybe a few more. However, Raikkonen has still lacked consistency during races, and his recent run of slow starts hasn’t helped either. His lack of performance in races could be down to his fitness and a lack of commitment.
However, looking at his qualifying performances, he can definitely again. But he has to reevaluate and change his work ethic if he truly wants to win a race in Formula 1 again, because at Ferrari, he has to beat Vettel by some margin to guarantee victory, or else Ferrari will happily swap them around as they did in Monaco. With 4 races to go, it’s possible he gets his 21st career win this year, otherwise we’ll have to wait for next year. He can surely win a Formula 1 race again, but can he translate his performances from Monaco and Hungary this year, into a season-long performance? Can he win a world championship again?