Right, that’s it. I’ve been feeling all a little depressed about F1 these last couple of weeks. “Why!?” I hear you ask… “This is a sport of the finest drivers, head-to-head in the finest machinery. It’s as pure and wonderful experience as you could possibly have with twenty-two other men.” (Stop sniggering at the back…)
I’ll tell you, but whisper it quietly… this season has… well… got a bit boring, hasn’t it? We’ve just had two races at the two most classic and wonderful circuits, Spa and Monza. Circuits that never fail to provide drama, intrigue and quality racing. Except they didn’t. Not this season. The two races you’d stick a pin into to go to, the two that are on everyone’s bucket list (along with Monaco) gave us little to talk about. Instead, they were both exhibitions for the seemingly widely disliked Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. Yes, there was some decent racing down the field, creating limited drama but when the TV director doesn’t even show a single shot of the leader, for about 20 laps, it rather takes the shine off things.
So yes, I felt sad. Deeply so. Until…
Everybody’s favourite lifter of gloom reappeared. The slightly robotic, yet always comically disparaging voice of Mr. K. Raikkonen chirped up to tell us all that he was going to race for Ferrari again for a couple of years. Praise be to Kimi. At last we have something to talk about, something to focus on, a genuinely intriguing story once again in F-1.
Why so? Well, let’s look at some of the ramifications of this move, and why it’s great news for us fans (if perhaps less so for Kimi and Fernando).
ONE: Now That’s A Driver Pairing!
OK, let’s go on paper. At the moment, there’s little doubt that Hamilton and Rosberg is the strongest pairing on the grid. It’s two undoubtedly quick and talented drivers, with no clear number one or two. Kimi and Fernando, though? Well, that blows it out of the water. We’re talking two Grade A students of the craft here. Can they work together?? Hmm…
TWO: “Fernando Is Faster Than You…”
Do you remember that fateful message? That awful moment where you realized how contrived team orders could make the sport? The realization that under that yellow, helmet Felipe Massa must have had oodles of frustration? He was beating Alonso that day. At last! A chance to shine. But then, the radio call comes through, and he needs to move over for the team leader. All that hard work pretty much goes to pot as he takes the role of “team player.” Lots of pats on the back from Ferrari, accompanied by sympathetic noises.
Now imagine Kimi getting that call. Imagine what his response would be? You think it would ever happen? You think even if it did, he’d move over? No, me either. For the first time in living memory Ferrari isn’t going to have a number one driver; they’re going to have two. Brilliant.
THREE: Kimi Got Paid Off And Luca Didn’t Want Him back
So it seems Luca di Montezemelo might not be quite as all powerful at Ferrari as we suspected. Remember that Kimi was paid an extortionate amount of money to buy him out of his last contract with Ferrari, allowing Fernando to join the team. It’s one of the worst kept secrets in the paddock that di Montezemelo basically didn’t want him back, needing some serious convincing for it to happen. Luca felt that Kimi had been disrespectful to Ferrari in the way his leaving panned out last time; those wounds may never heal. He’s also no fan of Kimi’s passivity when it comes to PR and all the stuff that goes on outside of that confined cockpit. Politics and Kimi don’t mix well; so what’s the most political team in F1? Yep… you got it. This should be interesting…
FOUR: Fernando’s Sad Face…
Now, there’s a lot of people out there that think this move could be great for Fernando. As if anything should be keeping him on his toes, it’s the arrival of a teammate that’s not just going to be compliant, and what’s more is quick enough to, at worst be hustling the great Spaniard. But much like a precocious child, Alonso doesn’t seem to be terribly good at sharing his toys. Remember his single season at McLaren, where he was given the shock of his life by that young pretender Lewis Hamilton? Fernando didn’t react at all well to that. He’s unlikely to react terribly well if Kimi comes along, either, showing him the way one time too many. Expect to see a lot more movement from those famously heavy eyebrows across the course of 2014.
5 – Will It Be Kimi Mk 1 Ferrari, Or Kimi Mk 2 Ferrari?
Remember that Kimi is the last Ferrari world champion. That, to me always seems surprising. I keep wanting to believe that Fernando has won for the Italian marque, but no, it was Raikkonen in 2007 that actually delivered their last title. He’s also one of only two to beat a fully operational Adrian Newey in recent history. Kimi, in his first season with Ferrari was pretty handy.
So what’s the verdict on this new pairing? Take a look at history further. A rather disinterested Kimi, in his second season with Ferrari was regularly being beaten by Felipe Massa. So if the team can build a decent car for him, he’ll be a force. If not… well… it’s hard to second guess the most aloof man in racing. But the stats speak for themselves.
Either way, fans must rejoice. It’s going to be fun. Keep at it this season too, though. You never know… perhaps Vettel might not win a race or two…
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