The king of corners, the epitome of cool, the master of car control and the sultan of speed made everybody his bitch today! And he did that in a car, labeled Lotus. Last time a Lotus labeled car won a race was in 1987 with Ayrton Senna. This result only adds to the legend that is Kimi Raikkonen. A persona that is impossible to fit into any box. To the frustration of many an interviewer and F1 commenter. Stirling Moss once said:
“Quite frankly, Kimi Raikkonen is the fastest driver in the world“. Well, guess what. He still is. He has just won a Formula 1 race in his comeback year, after being two years away from the sport. You dont just up and do that unless there is something very very special underneath.
And Kimi Raikkonen is special. No doubt about it. Feared by his competitors. Loathed by his detractors for not fitting into their mold of how one should be or behave. And loved, nay adored, by his vast multitude of fans. The no-nonsense down to earth, what-you-see-is-what-you-get is appealing to most people. And he truly is the very last of a kind. You get a real sense of the crazy 70’s with Kimi. He is pure rock’n roll. He does what he wants and does not give one thought about what others may say or think about it. He has often been compared with wild child James Hunt who won the WDC in ’76, and the comparison is not far off in many aspects. And in many others not, of course.
Nevertheless, the win in Abu Dhabi was overdue because we have already seen many stellar drives from Kimi this season. Close to winning but not quite. Today he was helped by the retirement of Lewis Hamilton but that is the way of Formula 1. And it does not take one ounce away from his accomplishment today. It really was a stellar drive. And I will delve into that of course. Bear with me.
The question on everyones mind was if Vettel would be on pole again. But judging from the practice sessions, McLaren have got some speed in their car. At least in the hands of Hamilton. And once Q1 and Q2 was done it was clear that it was no fluke. Only man to dip into the 1.40s was Lewis. Kimi had a great lap to comfortably send him through to the final round – although the time was more than half a second slower than the top McLaren.
Q3 is underway and Hamilton sets a blinder that was well enough for pole position. Red Bull did their best to beat the time with Webber the only other man to get below 1.41. Vettel only goes third quickest. His relief will be that Alonso clocked in the 7th best time. Even behind Kimi who qualified to 5th on the grid. Maldonado goes 4th from nowhere, which will send chills down the spine on those around him. Except Kimi. He is chilled
But what’s this? Vettel is told to stop the car on track on his in-lap. Oh-oh. Low fuel was my first thought. But Red Bull would not be so stupid. Right? It was only Barcelona where Lewis was sent to the back of the grid for running out of fuel. After a long wait and some frantic Twitter and website scouring, the verdict was in. Long story short, there was not the sufficient amount of fuel in Vettels car. He is disqualified from the results and sent to the back of the grid. I guess the boys in red were real happy about that one. A lot of speculation could be done here. Were Red Bull trying to pull a fast one? I dont see that. The Renault guys said that the fuel would be sufficient. Perhaps someone just made a serious error. Anyway, the stage is set for a fightback through the field from Vettel. And Alonso hoping to capitalize and close the gap in points. Bring on race day.
With everyone moved up one place except the top 2, Kimi is now on the second row. According to him, that is the minimum grid position you have to hold to be in with the fight for the win. But this is the dirty side. And there is a Red Bull and a seriously fast McLaren in front. Not to mention Mad dog Maldonado in 3rd. Well, a podium maybe.
Lights out and joy to the world! Mark makes one of his usual bad starts and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Kimi swoops on the inside well clear of Maldonado and takes second place behind the McLaren. Kimi, you beauty! You can really tell he is pushing all he can to stay with Hamilton. Hulkenberg bites the bullet in turn 1 and retires due to his teammate Di Resta getting to close and causing a chain reaction. Alonso dispenses of Button in the start and starts chasing down Mark Webber. He gets the job done on the second straight and is 4th behind Maldonado, Kimi and Lewis up ahead.
Vettel is a long way behind having started from the pitlane because his car was taken out of parc ferme. Smart move as Red Bull then had the possibility of changing his gear ratio and downforce level to give him better speed on the straights to make him able to pass people. I suspect they might have given him a fresher engine as well. He quickly gets to 20th position as there are plenty of incidents on the first lap. One of them being Grosjean making contact with Rosbergs front wing. Result: damaged front wing in need of a change and a puncture for Grosjean. Di Resta has a puncture as well.
Lap 2 and Hamilton outbrakes himself and Kimi is right up his gearbox! Can he get him down the straight? No, the DRS is not enabled yet but he is seriously close to making a move on the outside. I frantically bite my lip thinking this was the best chance in the race.
No time to dwell on that as we get a replay showing Vettel getting too close for comfort to Senna and chipping his front wing slightly. It doesnt seem to bother him particularly because he managed to pass Senna and a Marussia in one fell swoop down the first straight. Already up to 16th. Next lap, he takes a Caterham and another Marussia at the same time. 14th.
Meanwhile Hamilton inches away lap after lap which was to be expected. The good news is that Kimi is putting real distance between himself and the fighting bunch behind him. That all changed on Lap 9. Its an insane crash between Rosberg and our favorite Indian, Karthikeyan! Rosberg pratically pole vaults over the HRT and into the tire wall. Thank goodness that the Mercedes didnt hit Narain directly: http://youtu.be/bNnMoVBdbTA
The safety car comes out and that is usually a real worry for the Lotus cars. The tires seem just that little colder after the restart and Kimi has lost places before due to this.
During the SC period, we hear Vettel screaming on the radio about the Toro Rosso in front of him. Replays then show him taking out a DRS board to avoid going into the back of Ricciardo. And ironically the other side of his front wing gets damaged and he now has to make a stop for a nose change. Lap 14 and new tires and frontwing for the championship leader. Better circumstances but at the back of the grid once again.
Safety car in and I breathe a sigh of relief as I see Kimi hooking right up to Hamilton and staying with him while keeping a gap to Maldonado. Instead it is Alonso who is struggling for grip and has to go defensive against Mark Webber. The superior top speed and grunt of the Ferrari saves him this time. Back to Vettel, who is now having to pass Grosjean if he wants to keep moving through the field. After 8 first lap incidents for Grosjean this year, I would suspect Vettel being a tad more cautious. Apparently not as he goes side by side in the chicane! He gets a good run down the second straight and makes a pass – but was he outside of the track when he made the pass? Oh dear, it looks that way. What now?
Well, Red Bull are taking no chances as we see Vettel passing Grosjean once again, obviously having given the place back in fear of a penalty like in Germany. Smart move. 17th now. Raikkonen is keeping up well with the McLaren considering the massive gap there was in qualifying, but still dropping back.
Lap 20 – I get the shock of seeing Hamilton limping to the side of the track! Does this mean.. Kimi is actually leading the race! By default but still very much in the lead. My wife gives me a worried look as I let out a roar of joy in the living room.
Totally worth it.
Alonso gets by Maldonado and goes on the hunt for the Lotus ahead. To my surprise, Kimi ups his pace and extends his lead, lap after lap. What a drive! The Lotus pitwall is anxious to help Kimi by giving him some updates on the gap to Alonso. Or rather Simon Rennie was. Kimis race engineer, Mark Slade had warned him not to disturb Kimi. And Kimis response is as priceless and classic as the man himself. “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.” Yea. Shut up bitch. Let the Iceman work his magic in peace 😀
WEBBER PART 2
Lap 23, Webber makes a hapless move on the outside of Maldonado. The Williams has nowhere to go and there is contact that spins the Red Bull around. No fault on Pastor this time. Once again I am left wondering why the Australian still has a Red Bull seat for next year. Button now makes the move on the Venezuelan instead and takes 3rd place. Lap 26 and Mark is at it again. This time with Massa. He tries the exact same move on the outside and surprise, surprise, they touch. Massa did carry way too much speed into the corner though, which is why they touched wheels. They get through the corner but Baby likes to slam his throttle while on the kerb and does his trademark spin as he lights up the tires to get the Ferrari pointing the right way again. Good call Ferrari.
Oh, but we are not done yet with old rubberface. Cars are starting to pit and that means Vettel is coming up behind Webber. For some weird, odd and peculiar reason, the Aussie Git doesnt make it easy for the charging Vettel. Lets recount: He is on a different strategy, he is out of the championship fight. No reason for such idiotic behaviour except to please his own small ego. An ego that has been squashed consistently 4 seasons in a row. He holds up Vettel for the better part of a lap. He is even pushing to keep his teammate behind – proven by a purple sector. He is finally told to pit by his team. Probably the only way to end his petty behaviour. Well done Webber. You really are a tosser.
PIT STOPS AND SC ONCE AGAIN
Unbelievably, Vettel is an impressive 2nd after the front runners have pitted. 23 seconds behind Raikkonen. He has the possibility of going to the end on those tires. Which is why Lotus promptly decides to pit Kimi on lap 31 in fear of Vettel staying out. He emerges just ahead of the Red Bull, only 1,5 seconds to spare. Would the very quick RB8 get the better of Kimi? What do we say to the charging bull? Not today, as Kimi gets his tires working and starts pulling a small gap. Its almost as you can sense the steely determination inside that cockpit. Vettels tires starts to fade and the team realises that he needs another set. He pits on lap 37 and rejoins the race in 4th. Well behind the top 3. But not for long.
A scrap for 5th place has developed between Grosjean, Di Resta, Perez and Webber. After several laps Di Resta finally gets by Grosjean, but so does Perez! But as we have seen before, Perez gets greedy and tries to take Di Resta in the second chicane at turn 11 as well. He goes in way too fast and pushes both Di Resta and himself off the track. Mistake number one. From being way on the outside he just charges onto the track again but Grosjean has occupied that space and there is contact again. Mistake number 2 – with worse consequences.
Perez spins, Grosjean swerves hard to avoid the Sauber but there comes old clobberface in the other Redbull and smashes up the Lotus and his own car into retirement. Initial fault does lie with the Mexican however. Good luck next year McLaren. I would say clumsy driving on Grosjean and Webber too. And it brings out another safety car. Bye-bye to the 9 second lead that Kimi has established. And gone too is the 15 second gap between Button and Vettel.
During the safety car we get the second little gem from Kimi during the race. The pitwall is nervous once again and reminds Kimi to keep warming all 4 tires. Probably against Mark Slades recommendation. Kimi is not amused and replies with “Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’m doing all the time. You don’t have to remind every second.” Lol! How can anyone not love this guy? You must be a retarded baboon for not loving this no-nonsense, true to himself, one
of a kind character. I love this tweet from Marc Priestly: “Was glad to hear Kimi hasn’t changed on the car radio. Still shouting abuse back at his engineers! Legend.” What’s that you say? Kimi is rude? Go cry to yo momma or grow up. This is F1. Not a nursery.
Anyways – safety car in and Kimi has kept those tires well heated without the reminders and has a great restart considering the car he is in. He is taking no prisoners and his finger is on the trigger. 2 second gap produced after one lap. Comeback kid? Comeback king. Meanwhile, Vettel is getting feisty with Button. But its no easy task passing the McLaren. With 10 laps to go the excitement is still on in spades.
Lap 47 of 55 and the gap is 3,2 seconds between Alonso and the Iceman. All good for a Kimi fan. Could this really happen? I hardly dared to believe it before the final lap in Belgium 09. And now is no different. Lap 48 and I see the gap starting to get a tad smaller with Alonso setting the fastest lap. Kimi responds on lap 50 by setting a fastest lap himself although the gap is down to 2,2 seconds.
Lap 52 and we get the overtaking of the race as Vettel swoops past Button on the outside of turn 11, goes side by side through the chicane and makes it stick. Great pass and great driving from both to leave enough space for each other.
I have little time to enjoy the pass as I see the gap to Alonso is down to 1,5 seconds. With the race in India fresh in my mind, I get horrid flashbacks of the Ferrari zooming by the Lotus once within the DRS zone. Come on Kimi, for the love of God, you can do this! The sparks are flying below that Lotus and he is clearly on the limit in every braking zone and in every corner.
Lap 54 and the gap is down to 1 second. Oh no, is this it?! Apparently not, the wing is not open on the Ferrari! It is as if the universe itself is pushing the mighty crusader onwards in his quest for a righteous victory. On the final lap, Kimi has responded enough to keep Alonso away from even getting a chance to open his wing. Surely its in the bag now?!
Indeed it is. I can hardly believe it as I see the Lotus cross the finish line while Kimi raises his fists in triumph. Gliding past the pit wall to the cheers of his team. I am unable to shout or speak as I get surprisingly emotional. I can admit that I wiped a manly tear from the corner of my eye while just being thankful for having watched greatness unfold in front of me. Over the top maybe, but I dont care. I knew that young Finn was special from the first time I watched him blaze the track in a McLaren. His monosyllabic and monotone interviews just made him more interesting. 10 years later he is just as special.
This race adds to his list of impressive wins against the odds. From midfield or even the back of the grid. Or in an uncompetitive car. There are plenty of those. You dont do that unless you have that little extra. That special feel for the car and its limits. Even if he doesnt win another championship, I know that on raw speed alone – no one beats the phenomenon from Espoo, Finland. Congratulations Kimi. May there be many more like it.
Congratulations to Mr Vettel as well for a brilliant fightback from the pitlane and onto the podium. Some say that Vettel got lucky with 2 safety cars. Actually, he only got lucky with the second one. The first advantage was wiped out when he had to pit for the front wing. Another argument is that there was a lot of retirements as well. Yes, but half of them actually happened behind him. So, full credit for a fantastic drive to the disappointment of Ferrari who had hoped to gain more from this than 3 measly points.
Still, its not over yet. Austin is coming up. Anything can happen. And with Kimi finally out of the hunt, I hope for a return to the podium for Vettel. Not the top step though. That is for Kimi. One can dream, right? Because sometimes, dreams really do come true.
Lots of love,
Images © Lotus F1 Team, Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic, Red Bull/Paul Gilham, Getty Images,@PHOTO4, motorionline.com
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any of these photos taken down for any reason.