Well, thank you Kimi. You just made me look incredibly stupid. On second thought, I guess it only serves me right for being such a pessimist. Not to mention a doubter in your abilities. But can you blame me? Kimi had a pinched nerve in his back that almost made him sit out Qualifying. And in Free Practice the pain was so bad that he was unable to breathe under braking. So I was very vocal about having no hope for a good result, let alone finishing the race. If it was me, I would have aimed for the bed and called my Momma in Denmark to comfort me over the phone. Maybe sing “Elefantens vuggevise” to me or something. I always liked that when I was a kid. But I digress.
That is hardly Kimis style. Even though he was unable to do setup work during practice because of the pain, he saddled up for qualifying and managed 13th place. Disappointing when you see his teammate qualifying in 3rd. But also highly understandable and impressive given the situation.
The injury goes back to his first year in F1 during testing in France in 2001. He had a severe crash and he got a damaged joint between a rib and the spine, causing “a lot of pain”, according to Aki Hintsa. This apparently can act up if triggered. This is only the second time I can remember this being an issue during his career. Now and one time during pre-season testing with Ferrari. What caused the injury to act up this time was due to his seat not being secured properly during Friday practice. And when he went over the kerbs around the Singapore circuit it must have flamed up.
I send many a kind thought to McLaren doctor, Aki Hintsa that gave Raikkonen a shot of cortisone before the race. It apparently alleviated the pain enough to finish the race.
And then some..
The lights go out and Rosberg challenges polesitter Vettel from his 2nd starting position. He seems to have taken the lead but brakes too late in his efforts to pass the Red Bull. He goes wide and Vettel snatches the lead right back. Now lets pause for a second. It takes a cool and calculated driver to pull the move Vettel just did. He sees his lead being taken but doesn’t lose his nerve by braking way too late. Had he done that he would have slipped down the field or even made contact. Instead he brakes exactly right and seizes the opportunity when his opponent goes wide. A tap on the KERS button along with a better exit and he is back in the lead. One of the best moves in the race.
Alonso does a trademark rocket start and goes from 7th to 3rd. Fantastic. What is even more amazing is that Webber actually keeps his starting position after the first couple of corners by overtaking Grosjean to retake 4th. The time of miracles are far from over.
Paul di Resta makes a small mistake in the final turn on the first lap and Kimi being right behind doesn’t need to be asked twice and takes 12th place.
“Well done”, I think, but he is so far back that it is hardly anything to be excited about. 2 laps down and Vettel already has a lead of 4 seconds. He gets it up to 6-7 seconds before he clearly backs off to save fuel and tires. In the meantime, Kimi manages to make up another position by passing Gutierrez. But he is stuck behind Perez. Which is probably why Lotus pits him as the first of the cars on lap 10.
New set of softs for the Finn. This brings him out in a bit of free air. Making it possible to make up time on those ahead of him, namely Perez and Hulkenberg. He catches up to Bottas at an incredible rate and passes him with surprising ease. The Caterham of van der Garde is the next car in his sights and it looks to put up more of a fight than the Williams did. He gets past him when the Caterham pits and immediately sets a purple first sector. He is already ahead of Hulkenberg after his stop and the same goes for Perez after his stop on lap 14. That is 4 real places made up. “Huh, he is in the points now”, I think to myself. I had serious doubts of him even getting there. Now his back just has to hold.
Lap 25 and Red Bulls new chosen Aussie decides to bin his Toro Rosso in the barrier by the tunnel. That’s just beautiful. Safety Car out. Vettel must be happy about losing his 11-second lead because of his future teammate. He probably wonders what the deal is with him and those Australians.
Plenty of cars use the opportunity to pit for new rubber. Among them both Lotuses. To my surprise they pull off two well coordinated pit stops seconds within each other. The only thing that kept Kimi from jumping Button in the pits was that he had to wait for cars to go by. Surprisingly, Vettel, Rosberg, Webber and Hamilton did not choose to stop. Alonso did and is sitting pretty in 5th behind those 4 and they all have to stop again. Alonso may not.
When the SC goes in, Vettel has his work cut out for him. Because the pitlane is not only long but also has a lower speed limit of 60 kph, a pit stop will take almost half a minute. So that is the gap that Vettel has to make to Alonso on the harder tire that is already 12 laps old, if he is to keep his lead. What then followed was a display of pure supremacy going on for about 15 laps. Vettel takes off like a bat out of hell and makes his pursuers look like GP2 cars. After 10 laps the gap is a mammoth 23 seconds to second placed Rosberg and are already close to the gap needed to Alonso. Some people may find it boring but I enjoyed seeing the full speed of Vettel and the RB9 released. Not often you get to see that these days. Forget Webber. Giving him the same chance is like letting air slowly out of a balloon. The man blows. He’s had it. Over the top. No superlatives really covers Vettels stint. Just fantastic.
During Vettels power stint, people in front of Kimi have went into the pits one by one and suddenly I see Kimi is in P4. What the heck? The safety car came in handy for a change. He has though, on the other hand, been stuck behind Button all this time. But he has been busy as well. Not as spectacular to watch as Vettel but actually just as impressive in another subdued way. His tires are old and his back could have been better. But in some weird way he has managed to simultaneously put enough pressure on Button to make him wear out his tires while saving his own tires in the process. How he did that, I have no idea. Probably no one does. But on lap 55 he pulls out the overtaking move of the race:
Listen to Jacques Villeneuve, (at least that is who I have been told by my french peeps, he is. Correct me if I am wrong) who absolutely hates Kimis guts. He can’t help himself in shouting “Magnifique!”. I suspect he went home and washed his mouth with soap after the race. But Kimi gets to you. Even haters. And we have it on record now. Even Villeneuve loves Kimi deep down inside
I am screaming my head off as Kimi makes the pass while realizing that he is now in a podium position! O Soren, of little faith. Grosjeans retirement also helped him get there of course. Something the Lotus team was keen to point out after the race for some reason.
Still 6 laps to go and there are some fast cars on fresh rubber coming through behind him. Webber is on the forefront of that charge. No worries as Kimi pulls away from Jenson at 3 seconds a lap. And when Webbers car gives up the ghost with a couple of laps to go, there is nothing stopping the Iceman from claiming his 7th podium of the season. Fantastic. One of Mr. Raikkonens finest drives to date.
Vettel is another star shining bright in the Singapore night sky. Fireworks go off as he crosses the line more than half a minute clear of Alonso. Kimi follows suit. Its a podium of champions and one should expect no booing after what turned out to be an interesting race after the safety car. Lots of scraps down the field that I havent touched on. But no.
ON THE BOOERS
I have had my say on them before. But I need another rant. So we have a 26 year old guy who is breaking records almost every GP. He just drove a race that most F1 drivers only dream of. And he gets booed? Those folks are pathetic little people.
Listen. There are plenty of other drivers that have deserved boos or worse but they didn’t get it. Even in the current field, several drivers should be booed every race by their standards. Take Lewis. He downright lied to the stewards in 2009 in Australia. That is pretty nasty and serious. But he doesn’t get booed. Oh, he doesnt win all the time? I see. What about Schumacher? Punting into the side of Damon Hill and Villeneuve. The latter actually got him excluded from the championship in 97. He parked his car in Rascasse to hinder Alonso in qualifying in 2006. Did he get booed in Monza that year?
What about Alonso? Emails and text message proof of him trying to exploit Ferrari data to his advantage in 2007. Thats very very ugly. No boos for him though. Adrian Sutil? He put a frickin’ glass in someones neck and faced criminal charges. No? But when a young kid has an appetite for winning, and just goes out to put on a show for the fans, then that is suddenly worth jeering. Yea, that makes a lot of sense. If you are a complete inbred idiot that is.
Malaysia you say? Yea, he went after the win even though his team didnt want him to. What a horrible horrible crime.. He made the final laps exciting at least. And he did apologize for it after. But of course, that doesnt matter to the petty and small-minded. They just need any excuse they can find. Anyway, moving on to better things.
On the cool down lap, Alonso decided to pick up the stranded Webber. A nice gesture as Webber did the same for Alonso a while back. And its a fun thing to see as it reminds people of the iconic images of Senna hitching a ride with Mansell. So a lot of fans was understandably furious when Webber received a penalty for it. He had 2 reprimands before and a 3rd meant a 10 grid penalty for the next race. Seemed uncalled for and very harsh. And I agreed until I saw the footage of Alonso stopping in the middle of the track and Webber running over the track as Hamilton and Rosberg had to swerve to avoid a crash. Looking at that, it is very justified:
Plenty of people were amazed by Kimis race. Here are some quotes.
Lewis: “I don’t know how Kimi came from where he did. Jeez. That’s incredible!”
Video of that interview here:
Button: “How Kimi did that many laps on a set of tyres when he was fighting to get past me, I really don’t know.“
Paul Hembery of Pirelli: “Kimis pass was absolutely phenomenal. We all cheered when Kimi got ahead of Jenson. Kimi is Kimi, even with a painful back.“
There was also a strange quote by Lotus chief engineer Alan Permane who said: “Of course it’s good for the team and good for Kimi. But without Romain [Grosjean]‘s problem, he would have beaten Raikkonen. So that’s good for us to know”.
Ok? That is a strange way to praise your own driver if you ask me. Make of that what you will. Just don’t go too crazy on the conspiracy theories, will ya?
Anyway, Kimi also made a pass on Maldonado that was missed by the directors during the race. It was in the same place as he passed Button and just as impressive.
Karun Chandok does a nice run-down of Kimis race here:
Time to wind it down here while we wait for Korea. Kimi has not ruled out missing Korea due to his back issue. Story on that and the comment above here: http://grandprix247.com/2013/09/23/raikkonen-i-am-not-sure-i-will-race-in-korea-we-have-to-see/
It’s gonna take a lot to keep Kimi from racing in my opinion. Salary or no salary. Back pain or no back pain. So I hope and pray that his back will get better during the small break.
As for you lot, take it easy.
Soren, signing out.
Images © Photo4/XPB Images, Sutton Images
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any of these photos taken down for any reason.