Ferrari took a very comfortable victory at the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend but despite a quinella finish, the Drivers World Championship still appears distant for the Italian team. Massa is the highest placed Ferrari challenger in the title chase and is fifteen points behind Hamilton at the top of the ladder. With only five races remaining the gap might be too much for Ferrari to overcome, especially given the current points system.
Somewhat interestingly Massa’s strong win at Istanbul might actually have hurt his team rather than help them. The truth is that Ferrari would probably have been happier to see Raikkonen to take victory instead.
Kimi Raikkonen is Ferrari’s best hope for the 2007 World Championship for no other reason than he is the faster of their two drivers. Massa has beaten Raikkonen fairly and squarely on pace in only three races this year; Bahrain, Spain, & Canada. In every other Grand Prix the quickest Ferrari driver has been Kimi and it is only due to bad luck and inexcusable driving errors that he trails Massa in the standings.
Ferrari will need to be at their absolute best to win the title from this far back and that means their lead driver will need to stand up and be counted. Unfortunately that man is not Felipe Massa. Ferrari will have a much better chance at the drivers title if they throw their weight behind Kimi and not Felipe.
With that in mind they really needed Raikkonen to win in Turkey. Massa has now stolen points from Kimi and this may eventually hurt Ferrari in the title chase, although Raikkonen only has himself to blame.
Kimi’s error in qualifying cost him pole position and therefore the race victory.
For some reason Raikkonen appears to make a lot of silly little mistakes. He doesn’t do anything monumental like spin into his team-mate or crash by himself whilst leading, but he gets involved with trivial little incidents that could easily be avoided.
Qualifying at Monaco this year is the perfect example. To put it simply Raikkonen drove into a wall. He was cruising on a routine lap during Q2 and messed up the last part of the swimming pool complex. He probably got the corner wrong because he was taking it so easy and it was a ridiculous beginners error. It cost Kimi third place on the grid and a podium position in the Grand Prix. Raikkonen scored only one point at Monaco but should have walked away with six.
Another example of a silly error came at the European Grand Prix when Raikkonen entered the pits too fast at the end of the lap one. Although he was the first man to try the pitlane entry in the wet, Kimi was the only driver to drift wide and back onto the circuit. The mistake dropped him from the lead down to seventh and it would have been enough to prevent him from winning the Grand Prix (had he not later retired with gearbox gremlins).
Raikkonen’s strange blunders this year are nothing new. One of the most bizarre accidents to befall Kimi occurred at last years Hungarian Grand Prix when he collided with a backmarker. Raikkonen had a very good chance of winning the race but ran into the back of Liuzzi because he was looking down at his steering wheel instead of the racetrack.
It isn’t the sort of mistake you expect from a championship contender and Raikkonen can not afford to make any more.
Kimi will need to draw upon every bit of luck available to win this years title. He lies sixteen points behind Hamilton so will need race victories to claw back the difference. He will also need some help from his team-mate but the Turkish Grand Prix has made that a little more difficult to obtain.
If Raikkonen had won this weekend it would have given him four wins alongside Massa’s two and he would be leading the Brazilian by three points. Another similar result at Monza in two weeks would have cemented Kimi as Ferrari’s main challenger.
Instead both Raikkonen and Massa have three wins apiece and Felipe is just ahead on the points ladder. Kimi would be more at ease in the championship standings if he had only two cars to contend with as opposed to three.
Coming from behind to take the title is one of the difficult feats to achieve in Formula One. It is one of the few things that even Michael Schumacher could not accomplish.
1991 was the first year that points from every Grand Prix counted towards the final standings (before then drivers could ‘drop’ their worst rounds). Since then no driver has come from significantly behind to win the World Championship. If Kimi wants to break that trend he will need to pull out something special.
The last driver to successfully chase down the championship leader was Alain Prost in 1986. That year Prost won the title despite being twelve points behind Mansell with only two races to go. However, the Frenchman was never more than twelve points behind at any point during the season which is closer to the top than Raikkonen is now.
It highlights just how difficult it is going to be for Raikkonen to win this years title. If he does take the championship it will be the biggest comeback in Formula One history.
This season might be bringing back memories of 2003 for Raikkonen who arguably lost the title due to the sorts of mistakes we saw at Istanbul. He finished only two points behind Michael Schumacher that year and had plenty of chances to grab the extra results he needed.
He was the first driver to fall foul of one-lap qualifying in Melbourne by ruining his hot lap. Although Raikkonen gallantly fought back to the lead in the race he made the daft mistake of speeding in the pitlane and the subsequent penalty cost him victory.
Raikkonen lost another win four weeks later at Brazil when he ran wide and let Fisichella pass on what turned out to be the second last corner of the race.
At the Spanish Grand Prix Raikkonen made another qualifying mistake and had to start the race from the back. Things didn’t get any better when the lights went out he promptly ran into Pizziona’s Jaguar.
Kimi wasted his qualifying efforts again in Canada and did himself no favours at Silverstone by running off the circuit twice during the Grand Prix. Each time he ran wide he lost a position and finished the race third.
Even at the final race with the championship at stake, Raikkonen crashed heavily during practice and hampered his preparation for the biggest Grand Prix of his life.
Some of those mistakes in 2003 may not have made any difference. Rubens was always going to pass him at Silverstone and was always going to win at Suzuka. However, the total sum of all those little errors is that Raikkonen missed the championship by only two points.
Raikkonen’s qualifying gaffe at the Turkish Grand Prix might lead to a similar result in 2007.
Formula One is a sport that can change very quickly and Ferrari will be hoping that it does. The stakes will be high for the team in front of their home crowd at Monza in two weeks. Not only do they need to beat McLaren but their drivers will need to beat each other. Someone needs to assert themselves as Ferrari team leader and there is no better place for them to do it than Monza.
Michael Schumacher won last years Italian Grand Prix to bring himself back into World Championship contention, and no doubt Ferrari will be hoping for a repeat.
They’re probably going to need it.