When Kimi Räikkönen first exited Formula 1 at the end of the 2009 season, it was under a cloud. Having unexpectedly won the Drivers’ Championship in 2007, the Finn appeared to lose motivation in 2008 and was outperformed by Felipe Massa. In 2009, he only ever seemed to wake up at Spa-Francorchamps.
After a difficult two years away rallying, and even a spot of Nascar, it seemed as though his career as a serious contender in top-level motorsport was over.
Lotus F1 Team were taking a gamble when they decided to hire him Räikkönen the 2012 Formula 1 season. It immediately paid off.
From the start of the season, Räikkönen’s racing was sharp, firm and fair. You could argue that no-one is better in wheel-to-wheel combat. That form has largely continued into 2013.
But it’s all gone a bit wrong in the past few races. The relationship between Räikkönen and Lotus has become strained, and the race results have been getting worse.
That has culminated with a very clumsy and uncharacteristic first-corner accident in last week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Kimi Räikkönen seemed to drive straight into the accident, as though he had given up almost before the race had even begun.
Now we have news that Kimi Räikkönen will miss the final two races of the season so that he can undergo surgery on his back. While Räikkönen’s back problems have been well documented since the Singapore Grand Prix, cynics will raise their eyebrows over the timing of it all. Journalists openly wondered if Abu Dhabi would be Räikkönen’s final Grand Prix appearance for Lotus, and it has turned out to be true.
Of greater concern is the fact that Räikkönen has “done a Pérez”. Since signing the big money deal with the big team, Räikkönen’s results have gone south, just like Sergio Pérez last year.
Kimi Räikkönen is a complex character, and it is difficult to know what motivates him. Given how badly things turned out at Ferrari last time round, you have to wonder if signing for Ferrari again has had something to do with his drop-off in form.
Was Räikkönen only motivated enough to get another big Ferrari pay cheque? I would like to think not. Räikkönen is a real racer. But given how much he seemed to lack motivation when he last raced for Ferrari, it makes me wonder.