The equation regarding Kimi Raikkonen is very simple.
Akin to the driver’s uncomplicated style, Kimi’s future is pretty straightforward now. He likes less talk and more action; he likes to go fast inside a car and minds his own business once, he’s off it.
So if you were a Kimi fan, you’d be mighty pleased he’s still in the sport. The endless saga regarding his Ferrari career has finally come to an end but not before yielding a direction that’d put a smile even on the sternest faces.
That Raikkonen is due to drive for Sauber starting 2019- his debut outfit in 2001- is probably known to the last empty chair in any grandstand of any F1 circuit by now.
But a question remains.
What does it mean for Sauber and for Kimi himself?
Sauber stands ninth in the constructors’ championship with 19 points in the season. They are fighting with Toro Rosso and Force India Racing Point, their closest competitors who are opening a gap ahead of them at eighth and seventh, respectively.
Most of the points they’ve earned for themselves this season have come from the focus and abilities of Charles Leclerc, slated to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari from the next season
Kimi’s past record shows he’s got the flair to change fortunes.
If anyone would dub the Lotus Renault as a championship-winning car, then surely, someone’s happy to contend with miscalculations.
For a driver who’s as unhassled as his driving style, Kimi simply desires a simple working mechanism. The front end of the car should be suited to his style. He’s a front-heavy marksman.
But while past comparisons hold little value in Formula 1, it can be said for good measure that Raikkonen’s return to the sport, circa 2012, with Lotus Renault, wasn’t touted to be anything massive.
Yet, he finished third in his returning year.
So how was he able to do that?
He was able to trail Ferrari and Red Bull and showed great speed.
There were certain things that only the Iceman could do as expected and also, not to forget that the massive improvement in Lotus’ fortunes was all thanks to the era being driven by powerful V8s.
It wasn’t turbo-powered like the contemporary era defined by completely changed wheelbases and an absolutely different aerodynamic functioning of the cars.
All one could note would be Kimi’s ability to go fast in a decent car and Lotus, who bagged their first win at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 1984 saw Kimi turn around a corner. He wasn’t bereft of speed, and that incredible pass on Michael at Eau Rouge in 2012 Belgian Grand Prix was considered stuff of legends.
Kimi Raikkonen wasn’t a champion, but he did drive like one.
Having said that while Kimi wasn’t able to go better than two wins, he was able to fight for challenging positions, despite being in a machinery that clearly struggled to maintain traction and higher corner speed vis-a-vis the Ferrari and the Red Bulls.
Raikkonen showed the grit and temperament needed to fight.
That’s exactly what he’s done for Ferrari.
While his second wind at the Scuderia hasn’t resulted in a win, something that still remains elusive for Kimi Raikkonen as on date, it cannot be denied that he’s tried. In 2017, he was surely headed for a win at the fashionable Principality of Monaco when he was asked to dive into the pits. The result? Vettel went ahead. In 2018, there were easily two occasions where Raikkonen’s race results were clearly compromised.
For starters, one doesn’t quite know how on earth can a crew like Ferrari leave the car under an ‘unsafe release’ as they did in Bahrain. Under the bright lights at Sakhir, Raikkonen retired, but not before crumbling on the leg of a mechanic.
At Spa, prior to Monza, his crew let he exit the pits with the DRS wing open. Who does that? Why did that happen? It’s the F1 equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle mystery.
Then, at Monza, when he registered the fastest-ever lap, gunning for a win, after having passed Hamilton successfully before ceding the place to him in the 53-lap contest, his rear tyres were worn out.
In the end, a near-certain win didn’t transpire. But doesn’t that prove Kimi Raikkonen is fighting?
And one would expect him to do that at Sauber starting 2019.
Back in 2006, Sauber’s biggest moment came when Nick Heidfeld claimed the team’s first podium at Hungary. Kimi Raikkonen, aware of the team’s history, would want to replicate that effort on one occasion too many.
He’s committed himself for two years. That means that he’s clearly aware of the task on his hand. The job is to completely change the not so great fortunes of the team where the Constructor’s standings are concerned.
If you were a Sauber fan then their 2016 finishes would bleed your heart. They gathered 2 points. The only points they did score happened thanks to Felipe Nassr, who’s no l0nger in the sport. That happened at the rain-marred Interlagos Grand Prix.
Next up, in 2017, Sauber managed 5, including 4 at Spain and a solitary point at Baku.
Then, in 2018, they are already with 19 points. To their benefit, they have 7 more contests to go. Raikkonen would follow every point scored by the team closely.
After all, he’d be driving for the famous Alfa Romeo marquee next year.
To that end, he’ll be gung-ho about having found himself a drive for the next season.
Let’s rewind to what he said at Monza when asked if he could contest to win and if he still had the pace.
Raikkonen, in his characteristic nonchalant voice, said, “Well, at least, in my books am driving fast!” One found out surely that he was not bluffing when he went at a blistering 1:19:119 on Saturday and went on to defend from track position for nearly 45 laps before Lewis handled him.
Put him in a car that can handle itself well and Raikkonen can do that.
So far, in 2018, Charles Leclerc has had 4 DNFs and a best-finish of P6 at Baku.
Raikkonen would again have noted that. He’s aware that the car in 2018 is much better than the vastly underpowered machinery of 2016 and 2017.
And with all that experience and the high of having found his hundredth podium, of late, he’d be expected to put on a fight.
While podiums may not exactly be a regular event, what one would note would be the fact that there will not be a second-rate treatment, better known, in the social media vocab as the ‘wingman’ treatment.
Isn’t something better than nothing, for Kimi?
Maybe, where Sauber is at this point, would be a stimulus that would inspire Kimi to fight fire with fire.
At least, his fans would certainly hope so.