Things change quickly in the world’s fastest sport. Be it the height of rear wings following a regulation change or a driver’s form, it doesn’t take long for F1’s tectonic plates to shift. Four years ago today, Kimi Raikkonen secured his 20th career race win and second on his return to the sport.
Winning the first race of the season is historically an indication of imminent championship glory. In the previous ten curtain raisers, ten of the victors went on to lift the Drivers’ crown come season’s end.
Despite other podium appearances, his Australian Grand Prix triumph was the highlight of Raikkonen’s 2013 campaign. You could even go as far as saying that the Finn has failed to secure any headline results since.
Following a turbulent end to his relationship with Lotus – who could forget his radio row with Alan Permane in India – Raikkonen’s career seemed to lose traction. Much was made of Ferrari’s explosive partnership for 2014, as Raikkonen joined Fernando Alonso, and despite this being billed as F1’s strongest lineup, Kimi was trounced.
Alonso’s 161 points dwarfed Raikkonen’s 55 point haul. His victory at Melbourne in 2013 seemed centuries in the past.
Against Sebastian Vettel it has been a different story. Vettel’s three victories in 2015 ensured that he vindicated the number one status that his contract affords, but Raikkonen was building momentum. In 2016, with a car inspired by James Allison – the man behind the Lotus E20 and E21 that guided Kimi to his two victories at Enstone – he was able to provide glimpses of the driver that became World Champion.
Raikkonen’s 186 points amassed last season was only narrowly trumped by Vettel’s 212. The German was undoubtedly unlucky at times and as his various radio outbursts throughout the year would indicate, Vettel was frustrated all season. Raikkonen may not have been up against as strong a teammate as in 2015, but his performances last season no doubt indicated progress.
2017 testing has demonstrated that Ferrari could threaten Mercedes’ superiority this season. If Raikkonen and Vettel arrive in Australia with a package capable of outclassing the W08, a championship tilt from the Scuderia is most certainly on the cards.
As the established number one in a team where “Fernando is faster than you” still haunts, Vettel would be the runaway favourite in this scenario. If Raikkonen, however, was to rekindle the form that took him to the top step four years ago, he could give his employer a headache.