2008 was the year when Kimi won his second world championship. He breezed through the season scoring podiums and wins in most of the races. He did so with the full support of his team, Ferrari. Listening to his feedback and changing the components that he asked for. And so the legendary Ferrari team could celebrate another back to back drivers championship.
Or that is certainly how it could have been. That was in fact the way it was headed as well. Until money, sponsorship and the desire from a large Spanish corporation to see “their” driver placed in the Maranello based team got in the way.
Sensationalism? Conspiracy theories you may say? Far from it. The following segment consists of chronically collected articles readily available to the public. They are coupled with natural conclusions to be drawn therefrom. Now with hindsight and the luxury of time passing to better see the bigger picture, the truth is as ugly as it is sad. Full credit goes to the author of this piece, wrcva. A fellow forumer who took the time and energy to dig up and piece the puzzle together, forming the picture we already suspected.
My contribution is only minor edits and brushups for readability. With his permission of course.
I am aware that this is probably not news to a lot of people. But this piece was well researched and deserves attention. My hope is that much of the nonsense regarding Kimis 2008 season can be put to rest with this.
Why Kimi was not on top of his game in 2008 by wrcva
The period between April-July 2008 is probably one of the worst periods not only in Kimi’s F1 career but probably in his life. All his life he and his family believed in hard work and doing their best to achieve good things on merit. In Kimi’s case this means putting his natural talents to best use in performing, and winning races.
2007 season was a dream come true year for Kimi. He won the closely fought Formula One World Drivers Championship and was ready for defending his title in 2008. From all indications outlook for the 2008 season was pretty good, arguably conditions were even better than the 2007 season.
Backdrop for 2008: The guy just won WDC the previous year, and he is already leading in points 4 races into the 2008 season. Life is good… Other than the management changes that took place at Ferrari as Domenicali replaced Todt as the head of Scuderia Ferrari, January 2008.
It’s no secret that Todt and di Montezemolo had a power struggle within Ferrari, something which lead to Todt’s eventual and swift exit. With Todt effectively out of the way from early 2008 and Domenicali (di Montezemolo’s lap dog) in his place, it was basically a different Scuderia overnight. Raikkonen was initially brought to the team by di Montezemolo as part of his power struggle with Todt. But to di Montezemolo’s dismay, it was Todt that Raikkonen bonded with and not the superficial egomaniac di Montezemolo, who was the polar opposite of the “Iceman” (thanks to OSX).
(April 27, 2008), FIA post-race press con after winning Spain — Kimi – “It was a perfect weekend for us in Barcelona,” explained Raikkonen. “We were going really fast all the time and we didn’t have the slightest problem. Many times I have won and afterwards still had the feeling that it could have gone better. This time I did not have that feeling: this was probably the best weekend I’ve ever had in my career.”
The guy won Spain just 3 days ago… then, all of a sudden PR stuff & “rumors” kicks in. I am not sure who started them but the mission was to melt the iceman because it would be terrible PR to get rid of a 2 times WDC, in the event that he managed to win the 2nd one in 2008.
In the following, partially narrated timeline, I have tried to put the main news item with the earliest approx. date of first showing up (in google news based on article posting date) out of 100s or 1000s regurgitated ones for each item. They give a good glimpse into what was in Kimi’s mind as he was facing a psychological PR war, aside from racing issues during 2008.
May 1, 2008 – Luca di Montezemolo: Massa’s future with the team is secure. It will be too damaging to partner Alonso with Kimi.
Keke Rosberg: Kimi has to make way for Alonso…
Domenicali: Kimi is motivated from head to toe, and I know he is not thinking about retiring.“ here.
Note: You can tell that they have been talking about Santander coming in as the new long term sponsor but the plan is to not to talk about it externally… This is the first time appearance of Kimi’s “motivation” by Domenicali. It is not yet used in a negative way but it is a crucial PR keyword because at this point they cannot start talking about Kimi’s performance as he is in the lead. But this is where the decision has been made that Kimi has to go. Also note the disconnect between LdM & Dom’s statements. Yes, the date is correct - May 1 2008, and instead of talking about the win 3 days ago, they are forced to answer questions about the driver line-up, Kimi’s motivation, and retirement rumors.
May 8, 2008 – Niki Lauda “Last year Raikkonen was champion and now he is number one. Why must we now discuss whether Alonso is going to go there? They already have the perfect team with Massa, so why should they bang their heads together?”
Note: This is an honest statement by Lauda wondering WTF is going on… as there is significant chatter inside the F1 world… here
May 24, 2008 – Alonso signs for Ferrari –
The word in the F1 paddock in Monte Carlo is that Fernando Alonso has just inked a deal to drive for Ferrari in 2010. No confirmation is expected for a year, and there may be denials of any arrangement, as there would obviously be some serious knock-on effects for other parties in the F1 paddock. here
Note: Spanish press is going nuts over this as well at this time.. You can use google news with date filters if you want to see for yourself. Emphasis: do not confirm and deny until next year — which they did…
June 6, 2008 – FIA interview — Kimi: “I still have a contract until the end of next year,” Raikkonen said during the press conference ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Thursday. “I haven’t made any decision as to whether I will keep going or not. That’s the last contract I have and we will wait and see during this year and next year what happens.” “I haven’t made my mind up and we will see.”
Note: (this is the GP that Hamilton rear ended Kimi) — why would this contract issue come up in the FIA press conference? You can tell internal discussions about his departure is well underway. Yet we are only 7 races into the season..
July 10, 2008 – According to popular German magazine Sport Bild, it would seem that Spanish bank Santander would be moving from sponsoring McLaren to become one of Ferrari’s top sponsors from 2009 onwards. The big bank would have their adverts on the front and rear wings, alongside lettering on the drivers overalls. Ferrari have been touting for a new top sponsor since cigarette advertisers were not allowed in many countries, Marlboro being the major backer for many years. With a contract with Marlboro still in place, hash markings would still be on the cars. For the Scuderia though, Santander have said the major condition of their deal is that former World Champion Fernando Alonso would drive for the team. He won’t confirm his future, and will not comment until September. here
Note: Santander-Ferrari-Alonso deal is done at this time but negotiations with Kimi are in full force. Look at the desired date for the sponsorship… Now, how did Alonso come up with that September date, unless he read Kimi’s contract and is familiar with the performance/renewal options Kimi could exercise?? That is an accidental slip up by the Spaniard because the September date was significant only to Kimi’s contract. He cannot comment on what will happen because they do not know what Kimi will do yet – as Ferrari is still negotiating! (see Sep 12 news, in the following)
July 11-19, 2008 – Kimi’s front suspension is updated sometime between these dates..
According to Interview with Ferrari team principle Domenicali on December 16 2008, this is the point where Kimi lost his front suspension. From all indications this was a surprise to Kimi, given how sensitive he is to changes made on the car.
Question to Domenicali by Autosprint:
Did Kimi share his problems with you?
- We always talk with each other and argue about general technical issues. From the technical point of view he was dissatisfied with front suspension, and it didn’t work the way he wanted. The front suspension to suit him was a recurrent topic of our discussions.
How fast did you discover that?
- In midseason. We changed the suspension in Germany and returned it for Kimi in Monza.
In this interview Dom misspoke. Kimi got his old suspension in Singapore, a race later, not Monza. This issue is also alluded to by Michael Schumacher who is in charge of car development and updates:
“In a way it is his (Kimi’s) strength that he has a very focused vision, and maybe sometimes it doesn’t always help him. We could maybe help him more if he would ask for it,”
said Schumacher in an interview for BBC earlier yesterday. The German insisted that part of Kimi’s loss in form in the second part of the season was because the Finn failed to adapt to the new developments introduced by Ferrari in the mid-season.
“I think I have to protect him in many ways, because in the middle of the season we made some developments to the car but Kimi simply didn’t get on with these ones. The moment we went back to those changes, we got him back to competitive lap times,” link
Here, if we look at the WDC points table, from mid-July to the end of September Kimi was able to score only 9 points in 6 GPs. Surely, there was some bad luck involved as well..
Look at Kimi’s reaction in the interview in his own words:
“This was definitely not the kind of race we had been hoping for. We have struggled all weekend and we have to try and understand why. Usually, our race pace is always good, but today that was not the case, because I almost always suffered with a lack of grip: only in the final stages did the situation improve a little bit, but it was never enough to be competitive. We have a test in Jerez, where we will try and improve the car so as to arrive in Budapest in better shape. This is definitely not a crisis, but we have to study carefully the handling of the car to understand if we have taken the right road in terms of development.”
Well, Mr. Schumacher definitely knew what the deal was but maybe he did not have a chance to inform Kimi that his front suspension was totally different for the German GP… This also amplifies the communication and turf problems between Domenicali and Schumacher.
Now, imagine or try to visualize what Schumacher himself (as a driver) or Alonso would have done after learning the fact that their front suspension was replaced without their knowledge or they were not invited to driver debriefs… not a pretty picture, huh?
Juli 31, 2008 – FIA Thursday press conference – Hungary –
Q: People are talking about you retiring, not necessarily at the end of this year but at the end of next year. Are there any thoughts on that?
KR: I never said anything like that. I only said that I have a contract until the end of next year and then somebody made up that I will stop at the end of this year or the end of next year, but I never said that.
Note: Guess who is propagating retirement rumors? This is a pretty major PR war against Kimi… and they are wearing him out. You know, in itself, it is pretty hard to fight for the WDC – even if you had full support from the team…
Aug 24, 2008 – FIA post-race press con Valencia –
Massa: “My win in Valencia moves me ahead of Kimi into second place in the championship. I’ve been asked if I feel Ferrari should favour me for the title since there are just six races remaining. All I can say is that I want to keep winning, to keep beating not just my teammate (Kimi Raikkonen) but others too,” Massa was quoted as saying on the Ferrari website. The Brazilian, who is on 64 points, six behind the leader Lewis Hamilton, further added that he has got nothing to do with such decisions. “I just do the best possible job for the team and leave the rest to the management,” he added.
Raikkonen is third on the table with 57 points. Meanwhile, Kimi has rubbished the claim that he lacks motivation. “Next week, we will go to Spa (venue of the next Grand Prix). I love this track. I will give it all to win again. If someone has doubt as far as my motivation is concerned: Go ahead. I want to win. More than ever,” he said on the Ferrari website.
Note: Since April, Kimi’s lack of motivation stories have been propagating into millions of articles, blog and forum posts. (Google is your friend). Motivation is the keyword because they still cannot talk about performance…
Sep 12, 2008 – Ferrari confirm Raikkonen to end of 2010 –
Ferrari have announced an extension to Kimi Raikkonen’s contract for a further two seasons, keeping the world champion with the Italian team until the end of 2010. With Raikkonen’s teammate Felipe Massa also under contract for that period, it means Ferrari’s race line-up will remain unchanged until at least the start of their 2011 campaign. Raikkonen joined Ferrari from McLaren last season, while Massa has been with the team since 2006. The announcement should end media speculation suggesting that Raikkonen may retire at the end of this season. Article: here
Note: This is just an automatic contract renewal option Kimi is exercising to increase the Santander/Ferrari payout based on exceeding his performance benchmarks on his contract. He knows he is done with Ferrari… and if he could find a way, he could have left by the end of 2008. He is loosing the PR war, but trying to secure finances in negotiations. I also think this is the point where Kimi’s generally cooperative relationship with LdM went south.
Sep 12, 2008 – Alonso: “Kimi deal has no impact” – Skysports.com –
Fernando Alonso insists that Kimi Raikkonen’s extended Ferrari deal has not put a dent in his plans for the future. Ferrari announced on Friday that Raikkonen had extended his contract and would remain with the Scuderia until the end of 2010. This put an end to reports that Alonso could be heading to Ferrari at the end of 2009. However, the Spaniard insists those were just rumours and that Raikkonen’s deal has not upset his future plans.
“I knew already that they will extend the contract,” he told Autosport. “Nothing has changed.
“Talking about 2010 and 2011 is way too far for me. I want to win before that!
“Always my plans were more focused on 2009 and in 2009 there was no possibility of Ferrari so it was never in my plans.”
It remains to be seen which team Alonso will race for next season as while Renault are keen to retain their double world champion, Honda are also reportedly on the look-out to sign him. Link: here
Note: Alonso knew Kimi had to exercise the automatic contract renewal option after negotiations with Santander failed.. I guess he could not convince Botin to pay up Kimi to walk at the end of 2008, so he could move to Ferrari starting 2009. It is interesting that Kimi’s contract renewal announcement date is the same date as Alonso’s statement: September 12, 2008.
Sep 14, 2008 – FIA post race int. Monza –
Raikkonen. “You don’t have to be Einstein to understand that this is not the right way to fight for the title. It’s not over yet, but now it will take a miracle, like one that makes lightning strike twice.”
Note: He is not just talking about racing here. Even though he is still within mathematical possibility with 4 races left in the calendar (he is 20 pts behind Massa, and yet better odds than 2007); he is up to his neck in the swamp trying to fight/fend off elegators on multiple fronts:
1) Santander/Ferrari lawyers..
2) His relationship with Schumacher. It was never emphasized in 2008 but I think it was a very significant issue. For 2008, Michael’s role was, per LdM: “official 3rd driver, in charge of car development.” See footnote 1 (and check out Michael’s Ferrari and wiki profile for his role in 2008). Kimi did not like this at all because Michael was in charge of something (the car itself) that Kimi himself had been used to controlling/influencing all his career.
3) Pressure from LdM and Dom to help out Massa because if Massa wins the 2008 WDC, Santander will be thrilled given their upcoming 2009 IPO in Brazil. In my opinion, Dom or LdM never mandated this, but they highly encouraged Kimi to fall back because financial implications for Santander, the future sponsor, was in Billions of $. (not Millions, Billions) And because Massa is a native son of Brazil who can mobilize local investors even better than Alonso. Link: here.
In the end, Santander’s IPO gains were about $9 Billion. See footnote 2
Note: IPO means Initial Public Offering. Or the stock market launch for that company. In this case, in Brazil.
Sep 24, 2008 - Pitpass –
Spanish media is claiming that Ferrari’s recent decision to re-sign Kimi Raikkonen until the end of 2010, is a smokescreen, aimed at putting everyone off the real story, which sees Fernando Alonso heading to Maranello as early as next year. Spanish newspaper Marca claims that Santander, which headed to McLaren with Fernando Alonso in 2007, is behind a move which will see the two-time champion join Felipe Massa. The Spanish banking giant is due to take its account to Ferrari next year, and, having lost out when Alonso quit McLaren after just one season, wants its national hero back on board and in a winning (red) car. It’s claimed that the bank will not only meet Alonso’s financial requirements but will also meet any compensation demanded by Raikkonen.
It is fair to say that the announcement that Raikkonen is to stay with Ferrari for two more years caught many by surprise, especially since the Finn appears to have lost his sparkle in recent months, a situation not helped by the fact that he is now almost certain – barring a miracle recovery – of having to play second fiddle to his Brazilian teammate. While several teams, most notably Honda, have been wooing Alonso, the Spaniard needs to be back in a winning car, and other than BMW – which is backed by Santander’s rival Credit Suisse – Ferrari appears to be the only option.
Note: Looks like negotiations for buying out 2009 failed, probably to Kimi’s dismay — from here on it’s a Cold War within the team and Kimi is the unofficial #2 by corporate decision because they still need to ramp up Massa’s standing in Brasil for the upcoming IPO.
The only thing they could not foresee is Massa’s accident in 2009. Kimi’s departure was a done deal as early as May 25, 2008, latest Sep 14, 2008. They just had to make sure he did not accidentally win the 2008 WDC as Ferrari would have looked really stupid.. Very curious about that pit screw up in Monaco, if it was real or orchestrated because this is where it all started, it is a milestone event for things starting to go wrong for Kimi for the rest of the year, along with some unlucky situations.
Kimi: “A very poor race for me, right from the off. There was a problem with a wheel before the start and we broke the rules, which meant I was given a drive-through penalty. During the race, my main problem was trying to get the tyres to work as well as possible. Then we decided to change the strategy as we expected it to rain again, but it didn’t happen. Twice I had to change the nose after breaking the front wing. So, as you can see, a long run of things going wrong which explains the 0 points. I am sorry for Sutil, who I hit with just a few laps to go. I lost control of the car under braking coming out of the tunnel and I could do nothing to avoid him. It’s a shame how things went today, as we had the potential to do well. It’s true that I’ve lost the championship lead, but I always said the championship would be a very long one. Now we must prepare as well as possible for Canada where we will try to make up for this disappointment.”
That is why, Kimi always said “There are many reasons. In F1 there is always a lot of money and there can always be different options. That’s what happened in the end. It’s nothing to do with racing or what I do in the team.”
In short, Kimi was in the wrong team, at the wrong time stuck between Ferrari and future sponsor Santander, because he had the wrong nationality (the Latin lineup), relative to Santander’s business plans, and Ferrari’s role within. What I do not understand is how the journos/media could not connect these dots to show what really went on in 2008. You do not have to do any major investigation because pretty much everything is in the public domain. While I understand all commercial pressures on the racing business, 2008-9 was anything but sporting for Ferrari. They should have just let him go after 2007 instead of playing all kinds of games, and engaging in a PR war to give it an appearance of performance problems.
I suspect, even Massa will not bet against Kimi’s performance this year, or when he appeared to beat him back in 2008-9 as he knows what the deal was relative to his role within the Santander world. I think Kimi understood the business aspect of the issues, and in line with his character never washed any dirty Ferrari laundry in public. Yes, he did have several unlucky situations but his fate was already signed and sealed mid season 2008 purely for business reasons. 2009 was essentially continuation of the 2008 theatrics until Massa’s accident. On another front, almost identical scenario (to Santander-Massa-Brasil situation) is in play for Perez in the red car — Perez-Santander-Mexico, from the same playbook.
1) As to how things evolved with the car I am not totally sure but the person who had a front seat was Chris Dyer. “We had a tough and hard season but Kimi did exactly the right thing within the team and everyone respected what he did and how he reacted to this situation. We had a fantastic car but unfortunately we made mistakes when thinking about what’s best for our driver (Raikkonen).” I believe the situation he is talking about is the Ferrari corporate decision to support Massa – not exactly sure when, but possibly Sep 24. (he was told that they have to do this because they are stuck with this request from Santander).
I think “we made mistakes when thinking about what’s best for our driver” bit is referring to Michael Schumacher, because I remember reading somewhere that Michael wanted Massa as the official feedback/debrief driver sometime around Monaco. I think all of Michael’s initiatives were well intentioned organizational efficiency related enhancements trying to help Ferarri without favoring any driver but because he was closer to Massa probably Massa benefited more from them.
If you recall, recently Kimi said there was only one person at Ferrari he did not like… he did not name that person but I believe it is Michael, because Michael was officially in charge of the car. I think he was/is on good terms with Dom and LdM because he understood the Ferrari business situation that he could not control but Michael was in charge of something (the car itself) he has been used to controlling all his career. In any event, this area – Michael’s role — needs more research because it is mostly opinions. I suspect Dyer will talk or imply after his departure mid year.
2) Massa was at the right place, at the right time and with the right Sponsor, given his nationality. In fact Botin personally made sure Massa was taken care of even before the 2010 Ferrari sponsorship started: (Massa-“I’m glad to get this support from Santander. Lately I met President Emilio Botin twice and he is absolutely excited about the potential of the Brazilian market…) Being Brasilian, going into the IPO Massa became the brand ambassador for the bank (read the last paragraph in the link relative to the date of the article. Alonso was supposed to be in the list but not Massa, on that date) sometime during the summer of 2009, well before Santander-Ferrari relationship kicked in on Jan 1, 2010 (Alonso had been the brand ambassador for Spain for a while). This was a direct Massa-Santander payroll relationship ~$5-7M per year.
Fast forward to Nov 2011, Botin decided to personally fire him because he was upset with Massa for the results of 2010/2011 seasons. To understand the importance of Latin America to Santander, just look at their annual reports. So, to those who have been wondering why Massa has been with Ferrari despite underperforming? Because his nationality has been more important than his performance. And remember this stuff was not supposed to take place prior to Jan 1, 2010. This area could use some more research – journos: talk to some ex employee perhaps…
Again, a big thank you to wrcva for writing the above segment. There is still a lot of meat to be picked from this bone. And even if it is a sad tale of Ferraris stupidity, it would also be fascinating to get the full story unfolded some time in the future. For now the truth, even in crude lines, is pretty clear to everyone.
One might ask why F1 journalists didnt pick up on this at the time. Plenty of bloggers did. I am sure several journalists did as well, but it was such a hot potato at the time that the easier way to go was to not rock the boat. If you blurt out something as controversial like this, it would be easy to lose face in the paddock. Not to mention lose favor with the Scuderia.
Had it been any other driver, we would probably have known every detail by now. But Kimi is pure class. A gentleman that does not kiss and tell so to speak. He has never spoken out on these hard times or blamed anyone. An example to follow for a lot of people. The only thing he candidly said on the matter after his departure from Ferrari was announced, was basically “money talks”. And that is the typical Kimi way of summing up this entire post.
The irony is that Ferraris decision has only made them look foolish when it comes to accomplishments in the sport. Their last drivers championship is 5 years ago, courtesy of the driver they did everything to get rid of. It boggles the mind that they went down that road. So much for the passion for racing they tout to have, when the primus motor here was the almighty pesetas. Or euro as it turns out.
That does not mean that I would want a Formula 1 without Ferrari. On the contrary. But since 2007, the team has been riddled with bad decisions which is again down to a leadership that is not well. Some decisions were intentional as we have seen. But even they have seemingly backfired. 2012 was yet another year without any titles. The gamble has not paid off so far. It might do so in 2013. But even then, it is much too late for what the sponsors were expecting (and paid for).
Seems that Fernandos “good luck wish” in 2006 became more true than he hoped for.
Alonso: “As long as the car is not red, I wish you the best!”
This is Soren,
signing out. Peace y’all.
Link to my group on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/kimifanclub/