Why Evergreen Kimi Raikkonen Continues to Stay at Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen’s last three years at Ferrari have dominated by rumours over whether the team would dump him in favour of a younger charger.

The Finn’s F1 obituaries have been written plenty of times during his second spell at Maranello as a roster of drivers including Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez have their names linked with Ferrari’s second seat.

And yet, every year, the publishing of all those obituaries are postponed again.

Ferrari have always been reluctant to rock the boat with their driver pairings unless a genuine star becomes available.

Since the change of the millennium 17 years ago, the Scuderia have

Despite being well behind teammate Vettel, Raikkonen’s relationship with the German has paid dividends for Ferrari –
GP UNGHERIA F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE) Ferrari Media

changed their line-up just six times. Raikkonen himself only joined Ferrari at the expiry of a lengthy McLaren contract in 2006.

So it should come as little surprise should Ferrari announce that they will retain the 2007 World Champion as well as Championship leader Sebastian Vettel for 2018.

The dynamic between Raikkonen and Vettel is helpful to Ferrari if somewhat unusual in Formula One.

While Michael Schumacher had a dutiful teammate in Rubens Barrichello during the juggernaut era of 2000-04, the feeling between Raikkonen and team leader Vettel is somewhat more harmonious.

The 37-year-old is not a demonstrative character and while Monaco and Hungary – where Ferrari lined up behind Vettel to deny and denied Raikkonen victories – proved the Iceman’s fire still burns, he is not a man to hold a grudge and this is a characteristic that Ferrari value.

Raikkonen has  played the team role well in 2017 GP GRAN BRETAGNA F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE) – Ferrari Media

Certainly, there would have been more uproar at Mercedes during the tempestuous partnership between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, while the atmosphere is bubbling at Red Bull too.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez have shown this season the cost of letting teammate issues fester, losing out in Canada and Azerbaijan.

Raikkonen is also helped by the fact that aside from Fernando Alonso, there is no obvious replacement available for next year. The Prancing Horse will not look at Alonso, even if the Spaniard now regrets moving to McLaren-Honda.

Verstappen is locked in a long-term contract at Red Bull while Ricciardo will also remain there until at least the end of next year, and it will be difficult to convince any of the top brass there to part with either driver early.

It will be similarly difficult to persuade them to release Carlos Sainz either, with the Spaniard likely to remain at Toro Rosso next year despite voicing discontent at recent races.

The driver market for 2018 has also been kind to the Iceman GP UNGHERIA F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE) Ferrari Media

2018 will also come too soon for the highly rated Charles Leclerc, who has impressed in F2 this season. With Ferrari having tight bonds to both Haas and Sauber, the Monegasque driver is likely to be loaned to Sauber next season.

This time last year Perez looked a good option for Ferrari, but his everlasting spat with Ocon and the two’s collective penchant for near misses at Force India will likely have put off Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene. Ex-teammate Nico Hulkenberg, previously linked with Ferrari for 2014, signed a long-term contract with Renault at the end of 2016 and will not leave Enstone soon.

While observers and pundits continue to write about the end for one of Formula One’s unique characters, Raikkonen looks likely to remain at Ferrari for 2018 at least.

With Vettel also rumoured to be casting longing looks at Mercedes, don’t be surprised if Kimi’s ice cream doesn’t melt away beyond then, either.

The Spark and the Fire

Mercedes is one of the most successful teams in Formula 1, during the recent years, they have won the constructor’s championship for three consecutive years and Lewis Hamilton celebrated his last two titles with the silver arrows, whilst Nico Rosberg won his one and only world title with Mercedes in 2016 (check out our article about Nico Rosberg).

The Silver Arrows made their appearance in 1930, where they won all the European championships after 1932. Their first official entry in Formula 1 was in 1954 which they were known as Mercedes-Benz. Juan Manuel Fangio signed a contract with Mercedes and moved from Maserati to the silver arrows in order to drive in Mercedes’ debus at the French Grand Prix in 1954. That season Fangio won three races and finished first on the drivers’ championship. The following season, Manuel Fangio repeated his success and with four victories and won his second consecutive championship with Mercedes-Benz. A terrible accident which took place at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1955 led to the cancelation of the Grand Prixs and Mercedes retired from Formula One.

The miracle and the firework

Rubens Barrichello, Barcelona, Spain 2009. Author: Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot

There is one specific year which I believe that most of the young and non-young fans will never forget, the year where a team dominated with almost zero financial support, with only the basic crew and with two very experienced drivers which both had a great “coach”. Of course you will know where I am referring to, the name of the team was Brawn GP and the two drivers where Jenson Button and the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello. The master behind the success was Ross Brawn, who believed in his team and led them to the top.

 

Brawn GP participated in 17 races, won eight Grands Prix, finished 15 times on the podium, took five pole positions and scored 172 points. The team became the first to achieve a 100% championship success rate.

Mercedes played a critical role in Brawn GP’s success as they were supporting them with engines.

That season indicated Mercedes’ return to Formula 1, on November 2009, Mercedes with Aabar Investments purchased the 75.1% of Brawn GP. Mercedes had the 45.1%, while Aabar the rest 30%. The next year the team renamed to Mercedes GP. According to reports Mercedes and Aabar paid £110m for the 75.1% and the remaining percentage remained to Ross Brawn in partnership with Nick Fry. Ross Brawn remained as team principal until the end of the 2013 season.

Michael Schumacher, Sepang International Circuit, Selangor, Malaysia 2011. Author: Morio

Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were driving for Mercedes the first three years, they managed to get three poles and win three races. After Brawn’s departure the turbocharged engines returned to Formula 1, Mercedes had an advantage as Ross Brawn managed to improve the team’s power unit.

Mercedes dominated during the first three years of the new turbocharged engines, Lewis Hamilton replaced Michael Schumacher, and both he and Nico Rosberg secured 56 pole positions and won 51 of the 59 races. In all these years the two drivers have scored 2169 points combined.

This season, Mercedes is leading in the constructors’ championship by 24 points and Lewis Hamilton is second in the drivers’ standings, 14 points behind his main rival Sebastian Vettel.

Undoubtedly, Mercedes is one of the strongest teams on the grid, Ferrari looks able to challenge them, but it is still too early to make a prediction.