Ferrari are the big losers from Kimi Raikkonen’s United States Grand Prix triumph… but Lewis Hamilton could benefit long term from his success
- Kimi Raikkonen took his first win in five years at Sunday’s United States GP
- Raikkonen will leave Ferrari at the end of the season to join Sauber
- F1 chief Chase Carey slipped up trying to remember Hamilton’s title tally
- READ: All the latest F1 news, features and points tables
Who benefits from Kimi Raikkonen’s fine and popular victory in Austin aged 39 and 113 races after his last win?
He does obviously, his next employers Sauber, too. Ferrari? No, it showed how needlessly they have gambled in dispensing with his services next season when he is in his most consistent form since he rejoined the Scuderia in 2014.
I would have given him another year and made Charles Leclerc wait for his chance. Raikkonen remains the perfect No 2, scoring heavily enough to win the constructors’ championship – if the car is good enough – and not destabilising to their No 1. He is low maintenance and liked within the team.
Kimi Raikkonen took a highly popular victory after winning the United States Grand Prix
Which brings us to another de facto No 2, Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes. Is he really fast enough? The evidence of this season, even allowing for some ill-luck when well-placed, is that he is not.
I have said it before, and it is now clearer than ever, that Mercedes should have signed Daniel Ricciardo. Sticking with Bottas, who is no bother, no threat to the equilibrium, is a treading-water decision.
Championship teams should boldly regenerate rather than stagnate and Mercedes have missed a chance to refresh.
Another winner of sorts from Raikkonen’s win is Lewis Hamilton, strange as that may sound.
Although Raikkonen denied him the title on the day, the fact that someone six years older than him can still produce a commanding performance gives him hope that he can continue to rewrite the Formula One record books for several seasons to come.
And, in passing, we should salute how fairly and cleanly both Raikkonen and Hamilton drive. Neither is a dirty racer, and never has been. Racing fairly marks them out as champions in the truest sense.
Valtteri Bottas (left) has spent much of 2018 well off the pace of team-mate Lewis Hamilton
It is barely credible that Chase Carey slipped up when discussing how many world titles Lewis Hamilton is on the brink of winning. Five or six, he pondered when interviewed on Channel 4.
Now Mr Carey is a lieutenant entrusted over the years by Rupert Murdoch in major jobs and is nobody’s fool. But he would be well advised to brush up on the fundamentals of motor racing. If he does not know the stat du jour, how can he be relied upon to run the sport more widely?
If we asked him, would he have even heard of Enzo Ferrari? Or know that Michael Schumacher has won seven titles?
Bernie Ecclestone was decried in some quarters as out of touch and, supposedly, caring more about accruing a fortune for his masters at CVC than the good of the sport. But he knows Formula One and its people like nobody else. He would never be caught short as Carey was.
Chase Carey struggled to recall the amount of titles Lewis Hamilton had won in an interview
The new regime believe that if they have Ross Brawn to advise them on the sporting side of affairs that suffices. I am not sure that that is good enough.
The knowledge deficit explains why they have so far only fiddled around the edges, making mostly cosmetic changes, such as extending the time on the grid pre-race by 10 minutes, which has taken some of the frenzied excitement out of those tense moments of theatre, and doing away with grid girls.
A lot of thought and accumulated tradition went into putting mystique into the Formula One package, and unpicking it bit by bit is hardly prudent.
Nor have they yet found new destinations in America to stage races, as they said they wanted to, nor come up with the post-2020 regulations by the deadline they set themselves.
Perhaps they should consult the man whose stated purpose is to offer them advice, their own salaried chairman emeritus, Mr Ecclestone.
Good news: Niki Lauda is out of hospital after his lung transplant. In an increasingly corporate world, he is one of the last old-school mavericks. As a late colleague who knew him across the decades said of Niki admiringly: ‘He is the only person I have ever met in my life who literally doesn’t give a flying **** about anything.’
Niki Lauda has been released from hospital after undergoing a lung transplant in August
Nobody who has sat through hundreds of humdrum practice sessions can fail to have thought how much more enterprisingly the time could be used.
Four hours every race weekend over Friday and Saturday, when cars only intermittently go on track, is dull enough in itself, when a sprint race or some such alternative could be staged (in my view for a separate trophy rather than feeding into the world championship and thus diluting its integrity).
But the over-emphasis on practice goes to the heart of a problem in Formula One: that it runs itself for its engineers rather than the public. The engineers want the data they collect and if everyone else is bored so be it.
The changing conditions in Austin – wet in practice and dry for the race – meant teams did not gather as much information as usual, and the race benefited from the resulting uncertainty over tyre strategy. Wouldn’t it be great if there was always more uncertainty induced by reducing practice to a single session?
F1’s practice sessions are often laborious for spectators with sessions having minimal interest
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