From Sauber to Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen on F1’s evolution
Not only is he one of the most popular drivers on the grid and an F1 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen is also the eighth most experienced driver in history in terms of race starts. In that time, Raikkonen has raced V10s, V8s, tried his hand at rallying and is now trying to help Ferrari return to the front during the highly technological V6 era.
So what have been the big differences during his time in F1? And where are the big gains made which Raikkonen hopes will eventually see the Scuderia fighting for championships again in the near future? After signing a new contract at Ferrari, the Finn sat down with F1i to reminisce.
The Sauber and McLaren years
Raikkonen first drove an F1 car at Mugello in late 2000 as Sauber evaluated the quick youngster who had impressed during his debut year of Formula Renault. Then just 20 years old, Raikkonen admits he needed a day to adapt to grand prix machinery.
“I didn’t really have much idea because obviously I had never seen the car in real life – OK I’d seen them but not at the racetrack – apart from the day I went there and it was hard to know what to expect,” Raikkonen recalls. “I did Formula Renault, I did one test in Formula 3, OK it’s a bit faster than Formula Renault but not so much. The first test I did at Mugello, I was at the circuit earlier that year with Formula Renault but it’s a slightly different story with the F1 car!
“I think I went into it very open-minded because I didn’t really know what to expect so I just wanted to see how it is. Obviously it was a bit tricky because the conditioning for F1, my neck couldn’t handle it – any other circuit would have been a lot easier – so I could do maybe three laps and then I would box and wait. Obviously at that time there was no power steering in the car so that was a bit hard.
“I didn’t feel that it was so difficult to drive, it was just more the speed, to get used to the speed. Everything happens much faster and obviously it takes a while to get used to how hard you can brake. I would say the first day was a bit tricky because of that, just because everything happens so quickly, but then already after the first night it was a lot like everything slowed down and got more normal like you would drive a Formula Renault. It just slows down and it’s so much easier. It was an amazing feeling.”
The move to McLaren came about just a year later, with Raikkonen having impressed in his debut F1 season. You’d think the change to a front-running car was a noticeable one for a young driver, but the Finn says his first F1 car was still a competitive chassis.
“In a way yes, but I think we had a pretty good car at Sauber. It wasn’t like a completely bad car and we finished fourth in the championship so it was not a bad car at all. They did the best with their budget. McLaren is how it comes, a big team and so many people, it used to be in their old factory and not where they are now. English and Swiss teams have slightly different ways of working to achieve the same results.
“Car-wise every car is different, but I think we changed to Michelins as well at that time so I think that was the bigger difference to try and learn the tyres from Michelin. So the car was hard to compare really. It’s still a top, top team comparing with Sauber, but it was like you’ve jumped from one year to another year, it wasn’t like a completely new thing.
“So it was exciting, nice and new but I didn’t really find it so hard. There was always a lot more help from the team because they have more people and more money to use so in a way things got easier because of that. And then with experience it was also quite a lot different.”
Sat in the Shell track lab in the Ferrari trucks at Silverstone, the surroundings highlight just how much more support front-running teams can get in F1 thanks to close partnerships. Raikkonen says those sort of details stepping up from Sauber to McLaren are what start to make a big difference.
“You have a lot more resource for the team to develop the car, engine, fuel, oil, everything. More so electronics because it was a big part of that time [in the early 2000s]. In Sauber we got the power steering in Monza I think and obviously it was quite a nice thing, but all the small details that can make a lot of lap time – the diff, traction control and stuff – even then we had all the gearboxes that you could have, but the upshifts and downshifts, if you have more people you can put into those things it can make up a lot of lap time.
“So in that way it was also easier because there was not the knowledge and not enough people to do those things [in smaller teams]. It was just more people but they are trying to achieve the same result in two different companies. So McLaren took me in very easily and I felt straight away good. I had very good engineers there and it was just a new challenge.”
A first switch to Ferrari
Still searching for the drivers’ championship, Raikkonen moved to Maranello in 2007 to replace the outgoing Michael Schumacher. They were huge shoes to fill, but the first season brought the success Raikkonen had been searching for. So was that year’s Ferrari F2007 the best car he has driven in F1, or is that too simplistic given his title victory?
“Again the big difference was to change tyres,” Raikkonen explains. “To go from using Michelins for many years and then go back to Bridgestone; and it wasn’t the Bridgestone that it used to be before, it was completely different because everybody had the same tyres. So it was nowhere near as good or as special tyres as when there were two manufacturers fighting against each other. That made a big difference and also how you can drive and how the tyres work. So if you could have had the same tyres I don’t think it would have been so tricky, because it was not easy.
“Obviously between all of the cars I have driven, comparing the Ferrari it has always been harder to get it working, it takes more time to get it how you want. Once you get it then it’s fine, but it’s different. In those years when the tyres changed and went backwards – when I jumped to Michelin there was more grip and they made better tyres and kept improving – so it was a bit going the opposite way.
“Again a different country and different people, but I really enjoyed it. I was many years with McLaren and once I came to Ferrari I had a contract knowing I was going there for a long, long time and it was nice. You dream – or maybe you don’t dream – but Ferrari’s Ferrari, you know? And the other teams, they are not Ferrari. I don’t care how much they have won and all that.”
The season itself was a dramatic one, which Raikkonen admits was far from easy even if it resulted in championship success at the final round in Brazil.
“Obviously I struggled a bit in the beginning during testing, finding a lot of different ways of doing similar things. Then we found our way, then we had some struggles but we managed to turn everything around and make a good season out of it, but it wasn’t easy in any way. We started well, maybe too well, because then it went back to normal and we knew we were not where we wanted to be at the start. We hung in there, we had some issues but we came back very strong but it was an amazing year.
“You always wish it could be more smooth sailing because it was a lot of up and down but we managed to do it in the end and we won more races than the other guys and had more points. I didn’t expect to win the championship straight away, especially with Ferrari, and it hasn’t been easy at any point but I think we’re getting back to where we feel that it’s going in the right direction and it has been going well for a couple of years. I’m sure we can get back to where Ferrari used to be and where we should be.”
A break and a return with Lotus
Having already enjoyed nine consecutive seasons in F1, Raikkonen took a break and went to compete in other motorsport categories – mainly rallying – for two years. He had only experienced one year of new aero regulations when he left, and in a less competitive Ferrari than he had been used to.
Returning to F1 two years before the V6 turbo engines were introduced, Raikkonen had to adapt to another new team in the form of Lotus, and a new tyre manufacturer in Pirelli. It’s a period he feels improved him as a driver, as he had to learn additional skills on top of his raw driving talent.
“Obviously I had my doubts because I hadn’t driven for a few years in F1 but I also knew more or less how it’s going to be,” Raikkonen says of his return to the sport. “Every year there are rule changes, this and that, tyres change, but I was pretty sure that as long as the front is somewhere there with the car we’ll be just fine with it.
“When I drove a two-year old car – the first Lotus – with the demo tyres in Valencia it felt good straight away. There were some issues we had to fix with the steering and stuff, some minor details, but it felt very normal from the first lap. So I think it was a good place to start. In Valencia I haven’t done too many laps in my life because it’s a short circuit and not the fastest circuit but after ten laps it felt very normal and I knew it would be just fine.
“Then there is a question mark over how is that year’s car comparing to the others, but when I came back I didn’t have many worries. OK you always have something in your mind about how it’s going to be but I would never have signed a contract if I didn’t think that it would be fine. One big benefit that I felt was that I was driving all the time, I was racing and in the rally – whatever people say – it teaches you a lot. Even when I did rallies in 2009 with Ferrari I felt that it was only helpful.
“Obviously there are dangers and stuff like this but you can get hurt anywhere so I think it teaches you a lot because you have to be so precise and concentration has to be even higher because you have to listen all the time. It’s not just listening but driving too, so you have to mix a few things and until that gets completely normal to the point you’re not thinking about it you will never be fast enough.
“I could be as fast as the others on test roads because you know it and it’s not an issue. But then to do it from the notes – and you have to build the notes up – I felt that it teaches you a lot. And it helps for sure to be driving because it’s a very hard sport, so that’s why if I was not doing anything for two years for sure it would take time but I felt like it was not such a big deal.”
Ferrari comes calling again as V6s arrive
At the start of the new power unit era, Raikkonen returned to Ferrari for a second time. While the team is familiar, the regulations and the sport itself is very different from the last time at Maranello.
Nowadays, it is not just new front wings or engine updates which help increase the car’s competitiveness, with Shell providing Ferrari with 25% of its overall performance gain in 2015 through fuel and oil. Guy Lovett, Shell’s Innovation Manager for motorsport, works out of the track lab where Raikkonen is sat, and explains the improvements all come within very strict regulations.
“In Formula 1 the fuel is really tightly regulated, which is a good thing because it means that the fuel we’re using here for Ferrari in Formula 1 is very, very similar to the fuel you can buy out in a gas station,” Lovett says. “It’s 99% the same. For Shell that is absolutely imperative because all the technology and all the innovation that we yield from working in Formula 1 and motorsport we can then transfer to our road-going products. That is of fundamental importance to us.
“Nevertheless, the regulations do allow for a degree of innovation, which again is important to us to be able to trial new concepts, new technologies and new additives here in Formula 1 in quite controlled yet incredibly extreme conditions.
“Right now there are no limits to the number of formulations you can bring and there’s very little regulation governing the oils. There is a bit on fuel but still there is enough scope for us to innovate. Fuel and oil have always been relatively unconstrained in a good way to push forward development, where engine regulations have been somewhat more fixed in the past. So, looking at the V8 era, again there were very little regulations governing fuel and oil whereas the engines were pretty much fixed towards the end of the V8 time.
“It’s opened up a lot more from an engine perspective with the V6, it’s starting to be more prescribed. Next year is going to get a little bit more interesting, a little bit freer but it will be the same for us and that’s what we want. We’re here to innovate and develop and learn. Our mandates are to help Ferrari win and transfer technology from track to road. Kind of simple in that respect!”
When Raikkonen jumps in the car, he admits the performance gains are difficult to notice, but that again is a product of the evolution in F1 as teams and suppliers rarely get the chance to do back-to-back comparisons of upgrades.
“It’s hard to feel the difference,” Raikkonen says. “In the past it was much easier when we were testing between races because you could do one run with this fuel and then change it for the next run so you can really feel it or maybe or not. Obviously if it’s just one horsepower or two then you will probably never feel it because you can have one lap with the wind blowing one way and then the other on the next lap!
“But you could often feel it, whereas now it’s either one race weekend or another, different places, different wing levels, often different conditions, so there’s so many variables that it has to be a big, big change on anything that we bring to the car to really pinpoint ‘OK, yes I can feel it’, because we don’t do that kind of testing. Like when we used to do tyre testing we would do one run and then do the next run with a different tyre so you could get a good idea of things.
“Now it’s more like we trust the numbers, that’s why we have all these things [in the lab]. Obviously Shell has been a long partnership with Ferrari and even when I was with them in 2007 and 2008 and 2009, in 07 we made big, big gains in fuel and oil and lots of horsepower. So I knew how it works, and obviously now with the new rules and everything it is a big benefit to have this relationship because obviously certain years you get close to the maximum you can achieve under those rules. Now everything has been mixed up with new rules, you again have more opportunities to make a big difference. So for sure we get a lot of help from Shell.”
Having been through so much in his career already and having to adapt to new ways of working, does Raikkonen find the current formula in F1 enjoyable? Put simply: “Yeah.
“When it came in in 2014 everything was new and probably not at the level we wanted. OK, some teams were at the level they wanted, but for sure we were not happy with where we were. Drivability was also depending on how good your car is or the grip on the circuit or conditions, it wasn’t always easy [to judge] because it made it quite tricky. But now after a few years everything has improved so much.
“Driving-wise the sound is different but the driving itself hasn’t changed. You drive the same way, OK you have fuel saving but in the past you had brake saving or something, so it’s the same thing just affecting different things. So I wouldn’t say there’s an awful lot different apart from the sound and I guess a certain feeling around you, but for me it’s good already again that it’s normal now.”
2014 F1 cars ‘don’t suit’ Kimi Raikkonen – Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean believes his former Lotus team-mate Kimi Raikkonen is struggling in Formula 1 this year because the cars do not suit his driving style.
Grosjean and Raikkonen were team-mates at Lotus for two years before Raikkonen joined Fernando Alonso at Ferrari for this season.
Raikkonen has endured a difficult start to his second spell at the Scuderia, and languishes 12th in the points having failed to finish ahead of Alonso across the first 11 races of 2014.
Grosjean has been team-mate to both Ferrari drivers and he reckons 2007 world champion Raikkonen is suffering more than most from changes to F1 cars brought about by the radical shift in regulations for this year.
"I know what he doesn’t like and I think this year’s cars don’t suit him very well," Grosjean said.
"He needs a good front-end and that car doesn’t give this feeling.
"It’s hard to explain, but it can change your confidence."
Grosjean was also briefly a team-mate to Alonso when he made his F1 debut with Renault in 2009 – the season before the double world champion moved to Ferrari.
The Franco-Swiss driver says he did not know before the start of this campaign which of the two would be stronger at Maranello.
"I think they are both very strong," Grosjean added.
"When I was with Fernando I was inexperienced and the car wasn’t the best.
"He could always get on top of what he had and get 100 per cent from the car, even though he had to drive three different styles in the lap, which is very good.
"Kimi was quick, consistent, and capable of building his weekend as well.
"It was nice for me to have him on board, even if the chat wasn’t very big!
"They were different, [but] I was in different stages of my career [with each one].
"To be fair, at the beginning of this year I didn’t know which one was going to be the best. To me, they are both very strong."
Lopez: “Sorpreso dalle difficoltà di Raikkonen”
23 aprile 2014 – Due stagioni eccellenti in Lotus, per quanto tormentate da una difficile gestione “economica”, hanno riportato Raikkonen a Maranello. Il 2014, però, è partito con il piede sbagliato e il finlandese sembra un lontano parente del pilota capace di lottare con la E21 nelle posizioni di alta classifica. Qualche intoppo meccanico di troppo e una mancanza di feeling con la F14 sono alla base di prestazioni insufficienti e non paragonabili a quelle di Fernando Alonso e chi si aspettava una lotta serrata tra i due deve per ora cambiare canale e sintonizzarsi sui confronti interni in casa Red Bull o Mercedes.
Gerard Lopez, proprietario della Lotus, che già avrebbe di che guardare a sufficienza tra le sue mura a Esntone, ammette di essere rimasto sorpreso dalle difficoltà incontrate da Kimi in questo 2014: “Da noi era un pilota forte, quindi il gap (da Alonso, ndr) è un po’ sorprendente”, ha dichiarato ad Auto Motor und Sport. “Ma so anche quanto è bravo Fernando, immaginiamo solo che avrebbe fatto se avesse avuto una Red Bull negli ultimi anni. Ma sappiamo anche quanto sia bravo Kimi”.
Secondo Lopez, il poco felice impatto con la stagione potrebbe dipendere da ragioni, per così dire, ambientali: “È una nuova squadra e con Kimi molto dipende da quello che succede intorno a lui”, spiega infatti Lopez. “Con noi era sempre completamente a suo agio”, aggiunge quasi dimentico di come sia finito il rapporto tra Raikkonen e la Lotus, “anche se ovviamente non posso sapere esattamente perché le cose non gli stanno andando bene”.
Hakkinen: “Alonso sta dominando Raikkonen”
Mika Hakkinen, alla luce dei risultati delle prime quattro prove del Mondiale 2014, è concretamente convinto che Fernando Alonso stia demolendo Kimi Raikkonen.
Il confronto tra Kimi Raikkonen e Fernando Alonso, per il momento, vede nettamente il pilota spagnolo davanti al finnico. A conferma di ciò, oltre ai numeri, arrivano anche le dichiarazioni di Mika Hakkinen, il quale pensa che il suo connazionale sia stato dominato dal pilota di Oviedo.
“Kimi ha dei problemi, ed è nell’interesse di tutti risolverli.” commenta Mika. “Alonso sta letteralmente dominando Raikkonen, tra i due non è poca la differenza. Dopo quattro gare, Kimi ha bisogno di fare il massimo, anche perché la vettura non può essere così terribile da impedirgli di gareggiare con Fernando. Deve migliorare, e deve farlo alla svelta.”
Per Hakkinen, il Campione del Mondo 2007 dovrebbe passare più tempo al simulatore, ma la scelta finale spetta comunque a lui. “Il simulatore è una valida alternativa, perché consente di testare i vari assetti. Lungi da me dare qualche consiglio a Kimi, perché sono convinto che un Campione del Mondo sappia come risolvere i problemi per battere il proprio compagno di scuderia e per raggiungere una posizione decente in campionato.”
Smedley va alla Williams
Ecco un po’ di informazioni sparse e sperse.
1) Rob Smedley, già ingegnere di pista di Massa, lascia la Ferrari.
2) E dove va? Alla Williams.
3) L’ingegnere di pista di Kimi Raikkonen sarà un italiano.
4) A questo italiano, del quale taccio il nome, piace la vodka.
5) La regola sul peso macchina più piloti non verrà cambiata, perchè per cambiarla ci vorrebe l’unanimità dei team e la unanimità non c’è.
6) Kimi si è perfettamente ripreso dopo l’operazione. La settimana prossima, comunque prima di Natale, sarà di nuovo a Maranello.
7) C’è stato un incontro a quattr’occhi tra il Biondino e Alonso. In verità gli occhi erano sei. L’incontro è andato molto bene.
8) Sulla faccenda del Briscolone applicato al Gp finale, potrebbe esserci un ripensamento in extremis. La Ferrari e la Red Bull si sono dette contrarie, ma gli sponsor, le televisioni (non tutte) e Ecclestone (ovviamente) spingono moltissimo.
9) In alternativa al briscolone, c’è stato chi ha proposto (e a me non dispiacerebbe) di attribuire un punteggio particolare, cioè aumentato, alle Grandi Classiche della F1: Montecarlo, Spa, Monza, Suzuka. Ne avevo anche parlato da qualche parlato: sarebbe, almeno, più logico.
10) La Lotus è alla canna del gas (finanziaria): Raikkonen non ha ancora visto un euro, non un dollaro, non uno yen.
Pagellone2013, perchè 8 a Kimi
Quando Kimi Raikkonen decise di rientrare in Formula Uno, alla fine del 2011, disse ad uno che io conosco bene: il mio obiettivo è convincere la Ferrari a riprendermi.
Come sia andata la storia, oggi ognuno sa.
Nel giudicare, spagellando, il 2013 del Biondino, beh, io mi vedo costretto ad una serie di elucubrate riflessioni, precisazioni, valutazioni.
1) Non stava scritto da nessuna parte che la Lotus si sarebbe dimostrata competitiva ad un livello decente, considerati i cronici gap finanziari del team.
2) Se la memoria non mi fa difetto, nell’arco della stagione soltanto una volta Vettel non è stato leader del mondiale e quella volta al top c’era il Santo Bevitore.
3) Escludendo le ultime tre gare (Abu Dhabi non conta, per ovvi motivi), Raikkonen è stato sempre in lizza per il secondo posto nella classifica iridata, pur non disponendo di una struttura, alle spalle, paragonabile a quelle di Red Bull o Ferrari o Mercedes.
4) Certamente Grosjean è un manico interessante e di prospettiva, dunque se per due anni fa coppia con Kimi e ottiene risultati decisamente inferiori, insomma, chi vuol vedere vede, chi non vuol vedere è cieco.
5) Non credo che Luca Cordero di Montezemolo sia un babbeo. Se, rivedendo opinioni e scelte di un recente passato, LCDM è arrivato a paragonare il Kimi-bis al come back di Niki Lauda negli anni Ottanta, uhm, forse conviene prenderne atto.
6) Non credo che Fernando Alonso non sia in grado di giudicare i colleghi. Se ha reagito come ha reagito (vedi rassegna stampa degli ultimi cento giorni) al ritorno del Biondino a Maranello, ecco, qualcosa vorrà pur dire.
7) Voto alla stagione di Kimi : 8 tondo.
8) Dopo di che, poichè ‘cca nisciuno è fesso, se la R0ssa 2014 va in retromarcia, beh, nessuno potrà mettere in discussione le cose che ho scritto sopra. Non è che Schumi, nel 2005, fosse diventato un ferro da stiro perchè la Ferrari non andava…
Da Autosprint n.48 del 03/12/2013
Sempre da Autosprint:
Rain and Samba
I counted that I have followed the Brasilian Grand Prix -races from the paddock for 15 times already. While writing this, it rains outside once again.
I have a lot of good Finnish memories from Brazil.
The only time when Mika Häkkinen won three races in a row was in Brazil 1998.
Häkkinen wiped his nose in Finland’s flag and it was, to some, seen as almost a sacrilege.
The most memorable day on the Interlagos track was, of course, 21.10.2007. There, Kimi scored one point more than Lewis Hamilton and incredibly, won the WDC that year.
I was the only reporter invited to Ferrari’s championship party. There, we danced the Samba so much that I will probably remember it for the rest of my life.
This weekend Räikkönen is only a memory at the F1-paddock. Of course, they wish Kimi would be back soon. People from both Lotus and Ferrari have every now and then asked me how Kimi is doing.
Everything is good, his spirit is high, but the final inspection by his doctor will tell when Räikkönen can start training flat out again. According to an expert, it should be possible for Kimi to start training five weeks after the surgery.
Turun Sanomat, Sao Paulo
Kimi Räikkönen and Minttu: Shouting argument!
Kimi Räikkönen and Minttu Virtanen got into a shouting argument. The dispute started when the duo was out celebrating her birthday in VIP-restaurant Teatteri last Saturday 16.11.2013.
– It was Minttu’s birthday and the gang was there celebrating it, Seiska was told.
In the middle of the night Kimi and Minttu got into an argument.
– The argument escalated into shouting, because of which Kimi decided to leave the restaurant. In the end Minttu stayed there celebrating her birthday without Kimi.
Kimi was in a back surgery last Thursday and according to Lotus the surgery went well.