Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen finds himself under pressure already and the F1 season hasn’t even started yet
The world of Formula 1 motor racing never sleeps. It can appear like there’s just a race every couple of weeks or so during the season and the rest of the time the drivers are relaxing in their tax havens or appearing on television shows looking smug and slightly too well paid for people so young, but the reality is it is a day-in-day out challenge that lasts all year round. In a sport where thousandths of seconds can make a difference, there is no effort spared.
Obviously the preeminence of the technical side of things has become all too apparent in recent decades, with last season’s dominance by Mercedes making it starkly clear that those with the fastest cars will beat those with perhaps more driving talent. Not that I take anything away from Lewis Hamilton’s win, far from it, but he was only ever racing one other driver in 2014, his team mate.
The battle between Hamilton and Rosberg was so public (both on and off the track) that it became the soap opera of the F1 2014 season, finally reaching a head in the last race of the season where once again the result was decided not by talent behind the wheel but by technical failure in Rosberg’s car. He bravely finished out the race, his championship hopes dashed, his loathed team mate already celebrating another F1 title as he crossed the line.
Doubtless 2015 will see a resumption of that battle, both drivers having been retained by Mercedes, and rivalries of that sort being a pillar of the sport over the years, but it will not be the only team with some tension behind the scenes as the cars take to the grid in Australia mid-March. Over at Ferrari there have been mutterings about “The Flying Finn” Kimi Raikkonen and how he might well be replaced in 2016 by a young Frenchman the team have taken on.
Ambitious Frenchman Wants To Replace Raikkonen
As a former world Champion, he won in 2007, Raikkonen is now a veteran campaigner for Ferrari who took him in when McLaren’s reliability problems in the 2004 and 2006 seasons cost him a shot at the title. His defeat of Lewis Hamilton by just one point to take the title fortunate given Hamilton had retired in China and finished a disappointing 7th in the last race of the season in Brazil. Being lucky, however, has long been a criteria by which drivers are chosen, and Kimi had the skills to go with the luck.
Ferrari have, of course, been in Mercedes shadow in the last few years, their car simply not as fast as the German teams’s entries, and indeed they were not alone in gambling news from the front of the race would be of the two Mercedes drivers slamming each other off into the gravel giving everyone else a chance for a change. Unfortunately for the rest of the teams the Mercedes drivers loathing of each other was tempered by their professionalism and such events were avoided.
• Will the flying Finn keep his drive for 2016?
• Can Jean-Eric Vergne replace him?
• ComeOn! Sportsbook offer great odds on Kimi
Ferrari fans, however, and indeed the corporation behind the team, doesn’t like excuses and winning has become somewhat of a Moby Dick like obsession amongst the engineers, designers and mechanics. For drivers it is always an obsession, it is just now an obsession with an edge, especially for Kimi who now has to not only drive alongside a rival, but has another one waiting in the wings just waiting for a chance to replace him. This shadowy figure lurking behind the scenes? Jean-Eric Vergne their new test driver.
This ambitious young man has already made it clear he wants to race for Ferrari and with Vettel unlikely to leave the team any time soon the only seat he could realistically take is Raikkonen’s. His determination is underlined by his giving up of a drive in order to just be test driver at Ferrari. “I think what I have is better than being at Caterham or Marussia and always being last.” the young Frenchman said bluntly. “Now I’m at Ferrari which is also a great opportunity for 2016”.
Do Or Die Season For Kimi
With the gauntlet thrown down quite so obviously by a ridiculously ambitious youngster who was overlooked twice by Redbull, you can expect Raikkonen to come out fighting and if he can’t beat the Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg he’ll definitely want to be the best of the rest. Those that like to bet on sport in Finland might well want to risk a few Euros on their countryman because this season it’s going to be do or die for the Finn.
Of course with the Mercedes team likely to rush away ahead of the pack, barring some bizarre technical development on the part of another team or a ridiculous rule change from the increasingly desperate governing body of a sport that suffers from being dull despite all the ingredients that should negate that problem, Kimi’s easiest way of keeping his job after this year will be to beat his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, placing the German under more pressure from the clawing french wannabe than himself.
This means when the lights go out in Melbourne and they rush away from the grid you should keep an eye on the blood red cars from Maranello because that will be a race within a race every bit as nail biting as the one between the two big Mercedes rivals. Finnish gambling laws might be somewhat old hat now, but if you’re not bound by them ComeOn! Sportsbook is offering 83.00 on Raikkonen which given the onus on him to succeed this year may well be a very nice little wager.
It remains to be seen who’ll end up on the podium grinning like one of the biggest jerks in Hollywood, spraying their adoring fans in sponsor’s champagne, but whilst some will be racing for the kudos, some for the points, and some for the thrill, Kimi Raikkonen will be racing to preserve one of the most prize possessions in the world, the job of Formula 1 driver for Ferarri. With stakes like that, I’m not sure I’ll be in a hurry to bet against him whatever the odds on paper might suggest.