Ever see fans wearing Michael Jordan jerseys from the Washington Wizards days? Or Joe Montana from his time with the Kansas City Chiefs?
How about discussing the exploits of Michael Schumacher from his second career at Mercedes? Na, me either.
And we all know why we don’t discuss these years – because they generally weren’t worth talking about.
Like a sad prizefighter carrying on after he has lost his ability to dodge a punch, most great sports stars stay around after their best has left them. The same thing will happen to Kimi Raikkonen starting in 2019.
Why, Kimi, why?
His possible interest in an ownership position at Sauber aside, moving to the team as a driver for the next two seasons will be a disaster.
The Swiss outfit, though improved over past years, isn’t close to the team they once were. They will continue to struggle to his the third stage of Qualifying every weekend and will have to count on the racing gods for their points.
Having a champion return to them won’t change that. It will help – the team, that is. But, not Raikkonen.
Instead, what we are going to witness is the unceremonious fall of a modern-day racing great. Kimi may not be a multiple champion. He may not be discussed amongst the best there ever was, but his quietly rebellious and blunt personality means more to the sport than a boring Lewis Hamilton does.
And Kimi has won some incredible races, his championship was one of the most thrilling, his one-lap speed was almost always near the best – even as he aged. The Finn will never be lost from people’s lists of favourite drivers, even if he won’t stack up to Hamilton, Vettel, Schumacher or Alonso on paper.
Raikkonen deserves a better car
But a return to Sauber will be an ugly exit for a man deserving of so much better. Kimi is at his best in a fast car and challenging for positions and his worst in a car that doesn’t agree with him; just ask 2014 about that.
He has openly said that he wants to fight – and his desire to continue for two more years at a developing team shows that – but a team in a rebuilding phase is very unlikely to accumulate many points. He might as well be driving for Toro Rosso or Force India this year if being the best of the midfield is his new goal.
To make matters more intense, Ferrari is inserting the most talented (if still a work in progress) driver on the grid into his spot being vacated.
Charles Leclerc will almost undoubtedly show that the Ferrari was capable of more than Raikkonen could extract from it on a regular basis. That kid is more of a sure thing to win championships than anyone else on the grid and it could leave The Iceman looking a more ordinary.
2019: Setting himself up for irrelevancy
There is no question this move makes a lot of sense for many reasons – both the Ferrari and Sauber teams will be rewarded for their moves, as will Leclerc, F1 and the fans.
Raikkonen, however, will not benefit from a racing standpoint. What can’t be lost is the irony here: what was once (still?) a mighty driver whose only stated aim is to fight for the best results possible, is taking a step down the ladder of racing greatness in order to do that while everyone else takes off for the better.
Notwithstanding the fact that I have less than an ant’s power of affecting decisions in F1, I want to see Kimi drive his Ferrari for himself over the remaining 2018 calendar.
It was clear at Monza he had more of his edge back and I hope to see that guy back for as long as we can. The team has already said he isn’t part of the future so it’s time to win one more because there won’t be many on offer starting next year.