Scuderia Ferrari’s recent decision to sign Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen for the 2017 Formula One season may have been a surprise for some, but an absolute delight for the Finn’s fans, and reinstates the persistent rumour that the Maranello team are unbending as far as their driver line-up is concerned. But what did Ferrari see from Kimi Raikkonen during the first part of the 2017 Formula One championship? Kimi’s season has so far been mixed with team orders, race retirements and podium finishes.
Ahead of the 2017 Italian Grand Prix, let’s look back at five important moments which might have turned a corner for Kimi Raikkonen and convinced the Italian team that the Finnish driver deserves a seat for at least one more year:
1. Second place finsih at the Monaco Grand Prix
The 2017 Monaco GP followed a disappointing race in Spain, where Kimi collected a ‘Did Not Finish’ against his name, but Monaco proved to be a different story for the Finnish driver. Collecting what might be called an unexpected pole in Monte Carlo, Raikkonen began the race right at the front of the grid, only to be called in for an early stop on lap 33, a call that eventually handed victory to his later stopping teammate.
Even as Sebastian Vettel was favoured over Raikkonen, who put on a brave front on the podium, that second place finish just ahead of the ever-smiling Daniel Ricciardo served as the perfect antidote to those who had doubted Kimi’s speed. While most of Kimi’s fans would be annoyed with what seemed a lowly P2 given Scuderia Ferrari’s strategy call and how ridiculously quick Kimi Raikkonen had been all weekend, collecting 18 points can’t be dubbed a bad result for the team.
2. An indifferent but relaxed podium at Sochi
Finland and Russia share a bit of a history if you scroll through some literature. Not that it seems to matter one bit to Raikkonen, who repeated a bit of his own history here at the Sochi Autodrome, a track where he had collided with Valtteri Bottas (then driving for Williams) during the closing stages of 2015’s Grand Prix. Just like one year ago, Kimi brought home some valuable points for the Maranello team, going one up on last year to collect an important third place finish, following team-mate Sebastian Vettel, and race-winner Valtteri Bottas onto the podium.
3. Kimi’s impressive overtake on Daniel Ricciardo
2017’s fourth place finish at Bahrain might not have been an ideal finish for Kimi, who has done extremely well at Sakhir in the past, but it wasn’t without incident. Even in collecting a not so bad 12 points in the third round of the season, Raikkonen pulled off what could be called one of the finest overtakes all season. The Iceman produced a belter of a move on Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in weather that befitted Sakhir on April 16: hot and relentless. Catching Ricciardo, idling in P4, down the back straight. Kimi first tried to go round the outside, before cutting back across to go down the inside and past the ever-smiling driver into turn 11, only to evade an immediate backlash by the Aussie, who couldn’t match Kimi’s lightening speed. What really stood out in Kimi’s pass over Ricciardo though, was that it came at a time where none would have fancied a finish for Raikkonen inside the top 5. But that’s Kimi, unpredictable, isn’t it?
4. A surprise finish at Silverstone
A third place at the British Grand Prix may not have been exactly what Kimi expected in the finishing stages of Lewis Hamilton’s home race. He was running a strong second, with Vettel fourth, when disaster struck both SF70H cars. They both experienced dramatic tyre failures that dropped Sebastian to seventh and Kimi to third. No doubt happy to salvage a podium, Raikkonen would have nonetheless been thinking of what could have been at Silverstone. He could at least take solace in the fact that he outperformed not only Bottas in one of the Mercedes but also his teammate.
5. Kimi breaks podium record in Hungary
In what was clearly Kimi’s best drive of the 2017 Formula One season, he claimed a cool and controlled second place finish at the Hungaroring track, a circuit that many Finns consider their home race, perhaps owing to the similarities between the languages. Raikkonen helped his teammate Sebastian Vettel finish on top of the podium, after the German driver was largely protected during the race due to the fact that he suffered a problem with his steering early in the Grand Prix. Even then, in collecting his eighth podium at the Hungaroring, a new record, Kimi’s P2 meant yet another solid, closely contested grand prix, one that produced some fine tactical driving by Raikkonen, who made the most of the straight line speed of his SF70H to fend off the charging Mercedes.