Raikkonen’s luck continues to be awful but the Finn still managed a fourth place finish despite having to come back from behind everyone else after lap 1.
The Malaysian Grand Prix, last Sunday, was just what F1 boss and Andy Warhol impersonator Bernie Ecclestone needed, a race where someone other than Mercedes’ Hamilton or Rosberg came out on top at the checkered flag, but whilst Sebastian Vettel’s win was a welcome boost for bored fans and the Ferrari team was it really indicative of things to come or just a one off win that was more to do with Mercedes failure than Ferrari’s form?
Kimi’s Luck Doesn’t Improve
• Rain messes up qualifying
• Puncture on lap 1 slows him down
• 4th place finish remarkable
Certainly the tire choices made in qualifying by Mercedes, whose overall speed advantage would have easily seen them take high grid positions even if they’d run with BMX tires on the hubs, seemed to cost their two drivers victory, with neither one able to find the form towards the end of the race they needed to catch the charging Vettel. Hamilton’s irritation was palpable and Rosberg’s face on the podium sort of said it all, the dour German looking beaten by the heat as well as his fellow countryman from Ferrari.
Now of course no one expects Mercedes to make the same mistake twice, and indeed Vettel might now be three points off the championship leader (Hamilton) but his chances of staying ahead of Rosberg on points is hugely unlikely and whilst Bernie might be gambling news outlets will continue to have something to report other than the dominance of the Mercedes team, no one else seriously thinks this blip to make much of a difference to the season overall.
Well okay, maybe Ferrari do, but then they have to be optimistic or they’d just give up and go home, something several teams and drivers have threatened to do as Rosberg and Hamilton look set to run away with the title chances leaving the rest floundering in the wake, despite their victory on Sunday improving Vettels odds of taking the championship at ComeOn! Sportsbook closing up to 5.45, from somewhere outside the known universe of numbers.
Was Vettel’s Win A One Off?
That improvement of odds, however, means very little, since Rosberg is at 4.80 and Hamilton in sitting pretty on 1.37 with every chance of proving the bookies right once again, but whilst the markets can’t take the risk of a surprise upset (hence that closing down to 5.45) a quick glance at the odds on Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen 51.00 and indeed fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas on 121.00 show that Mercedes is still the team in the lead whatever the podium on Sunday might have indicated.
But whilst it’s difficult to feel sorry for a bunch of overpaid posh boys who get to live a rockstar lifestyle, drive hugely expensive cars very fast around corners and waste champagne in childish celebrations at the race’s end, you do have to spare just a little bit of sympathy for the Finnish drivers, especially Kimi whose 2015 has simply not come together yet despite him showing exceedingly good form when things go as they should.
In Australia his pit crew and left rear tire did for Raikkonen’s chances, seeing him retire late in the race, which is why during practice in Malaysia Ferrari were the only team to rehearse full pit stops, and if he were hoping Malaysia would be different, it was, his pit crew were superb, and his car was right on the money, it’s just a shame the weather and an early puncture brought on by contact with another driver damaged his chances of a podium finish.
Those of you who like to bet on sport in Finland with any sort of national pride will probably have backed either Bottas or Raikkonen to come first of the non-Mercedes drivers in the race, but alas that didn’t come to pass, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort on the part of your countrymen, both of whom acquitted themselves superbly throughout the weekend, it was just a case of misfortune keeping Raikkonen off the pace and therefore out of the running.
Rain Ruins Raikkonen’s Qualifying
In qualifying it was the weather that did the damage. The heavy, almost biblical, rain storm cutting qualifying down to size and preventing the Finn from improving on his 11th place in Q2, unable to reach the all important Q3 like German team mate Vettel. He quite rightly kept the blame from anyone else and said “We just got the timing wrong.” Which is true, but he has to be a little gutted to see his teammate do so well under precisely the same circumstances.
In the race itself Raikkonen’s luck went from just poor to exceedingly bad with a collision with Felipe Nasr on the first lap causing him to have a puncture just after the pit lane entrance meaning the poor Finn had to drive an entire lap on three wheels, dropping right to the back of the pack, it also, lets be honest, spread enough rubber on the track to bring out the safety car and give Vettel the chance he needed to grab and cling onto the lead.
Out of a good pit stop Raikkonen then charged at the race like a man possessed and despite having lost some downforce after the puncture he moved up through the field pushing by slower drivers with skill and confidence, even overtaking his fellow Finn Bottas to take a ridiculously good 4th place in the circumstances. Could he have challenged for the lead had he not had such ghastly luck? Almost certainly, his pace in practice arguably better than eventual winner Vettel.
“Obviously we had quite a lot of bad luck in quite a few places this weekend, but there’s not much I can do when I get touched from behind and it is what it is.” He said stoically after the race. “Obviously for the team it’s a pretty good result, they got the win. It could have been better but….we did the maximum.” Coming from the rear of the field to fourth place? Yeah, that’s maximum effort Kimi and well done you. Finnish gambling laws might be a tad confused but you’d have to be mad not to back him to come top of the rest behind Mercedes in China in two week’s time.