Kimi Raikkonen faces a crucial 2018 Formula One season to secure his short-term future with Ferrari. The 38-year-old has struggled since his return to the Italian outfit in 2014, failing to discover the form that he enjoyed during his first spell with the team. Ferrari made drastic improvements to their vehicle in the 2017 campaign. Sebastian Vettel capitalised in the early stages of the season before Lewis Hamilton pulled away from the German to secure the Drivers’ Championship. Raikkonen made a slight improvement from his previous performances, but could still only muster a fourth-place finish in the standings.
Raikkonen will be feeling the pressure to retain his spot on the team. Ferrari have been linked with a move to sign Daniel Ricciardo when his contract expires at Red Bull. Max Verstappen could be a long-term target, although his future appears to be tied up with their rivals. The 38-year-old needs a strong season to justify his spot and alleviate the pressure on Vettel to improve their chances of securing the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since the 2008 campaign. The Italian outfit were once the dominant team in the sport, but are now backed in the latest F1 betting odds at 7/2 to win the title behind Mercedes and Red Bull.
The form of the Finn has played into their struggles, although Vettel did not come to life until last season. Raikkonen has not won a Grand Prix since the opening race of the 2013 season when he was with Lotus Racing. Since his return to Ferrari, the driver has gone winless, although he has finished second on five occasions. However, that’s nowhere near enough for a team with Ferrari’s expectations.
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To be fair to Raikkonen, he has also had his fair share of misfortune. He has suffered a lot of issues with his cars over the last three seasons, with retirements forcing him out of 11 races. Raikkonen was prevented from starting at the Malaysian Grand Prix in the 2017 term due to an issue with his battery. Those problems have not been as severe for Vettel, but such technical faults have impeded both drivers’ push for success in recent times.
During his first spell with Ferarri, Raikkonen enjoyed a semblance of reliability with his car. None more so than his triumphant 2007 campaign when he won six of the 17 races over the course of the term, including three of the last four to claim the crown by one point ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Raikkonen does have the ability still and he did reel off three podiums on the bounce towards the end of the 2017 campaign, finishing third in the USA, Mexico and Brazil. However, he needs a victory early in the new season to ease the pressure on his place. The Finn’s drought has latest too long for a driver of his quality. The longer he goes without and Ferrari continue to remain off the pace – the shorter his tenure will be with the team and perhaps the sport.