Kimi Raikkonen’s first lap incident at last week’s British Grand Prix saw him collect the barrier before rebounding back onto the track and into the path of the a number of back-markers.
Felipe Massa who, like the Ferraris, had been wrong-footed during qualifying, made a dog’s breakfast of the start and found himself staring at the gearbox of a Caterham when Raikkonen rejoined the track.
Evasive action proved futile as Massa slid into Raikkonen’s wayward Ferrari, making it the second time in three races that the Brazilian was eliminated by circumstances beyond his control.
Understandably, Massa was frustrated. Not only are the pair former teammates, but Raikkonen replaced him at the Maranello team after a poor showing in recent years. Now the spotlight has turned to Kimi, his struggles in the 2014 spec-F1 cars and his motivation.
Kimi Raikonnen himself has commented that he will probably not peruse a drive in Formula One beyond his contact with Ferrari in 2015. Several off-track incidents have left him with severe back trauma, and suiting up against the scintillating talent of F1 young guns like Valterri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo make a return to his former glory increasingly unlikely.
English born F1 journalist and NBC presenter Will Buxton has written two articles on his personal blog, which are scathing of Raikkonen’s actions and questioning whether the FIA should have forced him to sit out the next race in Germany.
“I do not believe that Kimi Raikkonen should be on the grid for the German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time,” he wrote after the race. Kimi’s “staggering racing negligence” was to blame, and while he discounts the FIA’s argument that Kimi’s actions were not out of step with most other drivers he believes the driver’s reluctance to participate in track walks left him unaware of track conditions.
Buxton copped a bit of flack from Raikkonen fanboys keen to defend their homeboy. Despite requests that his readers not resort to personal attacks, Buxton however labelled the FIA and their stance “moronic”.
He summarises his argument with the following.
“[Raikkonen] did not join in a safe manner as he was at a speed the FIA has admitted was too high, and he was also not in control of his vehicle as the manner in which he rejoined the track resulted in an accident entirely of his making.”
Replays show that Raikkonen was in relatively clear air when rejoining the track, so Buxton’s argument that he rejoined unsafely and on the racing line holds as much water as a tennis racquet.
As for the question of control, I can only suggest that no accident wouldn’t have occurred if wasn’t a rain gully inches off the racing line at such an angle that running over it sends a car into the air and ultimately into the wall.
Buxton then attempts to justify his harsh position by naming and shaming some of F1’s recent offenders. “If it had been a Grosjean, Maldonado, Gutierrez or Perez, I can’t help but feel points would have been the bare minimum,” he says.
What he fails to acknowledge is that all of these drivers were involved in ill-advised overtaking manoeuvres or reckless incidents involving other drivers. Kimi on the other hand was simply a victim of shonky and unpredictable track conditions.
Where Buxton does redeem himself is by questioning the FIA’s zero tolerance policy for cars that exceed track limits before qualifying only to ignore breaches from both Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Vettel during their scrap.
While some fans applauded their leniency, it only highlighted their hypocrisy. Wiping drivers times during qualifying after legitimately losing control, as happened to Jenson Button recently, is juxtaposed by drivers deliberately and repeatedly leaving the track during the race to gain an advantage.
While we search for answers to the declining viewership of F1, we should be demanding the FIA to ensure that no tracks reward drivers for leaving the track limits and amend facilities to ensure their cars are not compromised when rejoining the track after a legitimate off. All this should be done long before exploring gimmicky regulations like double-points at the final race, artificially changing the sound of the cars and introducing titanium plates to produce sparks.
In the meantime who do you side with, Kimi or Will?