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Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus: A Recipe for Success

As Raikkonen and Webber swap engineers, will the harmonious blend at Lotus be maintained?
Sunday, January 20, 2013

Januray 20th, 2013 (F1plus / Briony Dixon).- In stark contrast to his cool, aloof nature, the comeback of Kimi Raikkonen provided an extra pinch of heat and spice to Formula One in 2012.  His return to the sport following a stint in rallying was a successful one, and one that saw him rewarded with victory in Abu Dhabi, and third place in the Driver’s Championship with a haul of two hundred and seven points. 

So what are the secrets to his recipe for success?  Lotus and Kimi Raikkonen seem to complement each other perfectly.  The relaxed flavour the Enstone team have created for him has given him the required space to season his skills without having the pressure of extra ingredients such as excessive media commitments.  Citing such pressures as the reason for exiting Formula One in favour of rallying, it was imperative that his return would be with a team who understand the essence of the Iceman. 

Ex Williams Chairman, Adam Parr, alluded to the differing levels of competitiveness between the Williams and the Lotus being the reason why Raikkonen’s pre - 2012 season talks with the team crumbled.  While being competitive and fast is important to Kimi, so is an atmosphere that supplements the essence of his personality.  Williams may not have been the perfect accompaniment, just as Ferrari weren’t.   Joining the Maranello team in 2007 as a replacement for the retiring Michael Schumacher, his relaxed, terse temperament needed to be blended with the ordered, pressure cooker of an empire the German left behind as a legacy.  A blend that ultimately resulted in the mix to bubble over and ultimately burn out.    

Kimi Raikkonen’s racing thrives on how things ‘feel’.  Switzerland’s Speed Week quoted him as saying,

“I just think I can learn nothing in the simulator.  I learn a new track quickly, without a simulator.”

This was proved at the inaugural US Grand Prix in Austin when the Finn revealed that he hadn’t driven the track in a simulator, but may ride round the circuit on a bicycle if he felt like it.  Whether he did or not is unknown, but during the first practice session he outperformed a team mate who had spent hours in the simulator.  His ability to understand and serve what is needed without conforming to the usual elements of Formula One was also evident in Abu Dhabi.  Now famously quoted, Kimi was heard dismissing the information provided over the radio by an engineer telling him to get heat into all of his tyres during a safety car stint.  A driver of his calibre, and character, doesn’t need to be bothered with such basic information, a point proved with the purple lap he delivered following the exit of the safety car. 

The engineer dispensing the unnecessary information was not Raikkonen’s usual engineer, Simon Rennie.  Following the incident, Rennie explained that he knew how Kimi would react to the message, an explanation which exposed him as being an ingredient in the Finn’s comeback to enrich his performance.  Although Lotus will still be able to infuse their easy going approach with the non conformist qualities Raikkonen oozes, will the news that Simon Rennie will be switching his attentions to Mark Webber at Red Bull cause the harmonious blend to separate?  Ciaron Pilbeam, engineer to Webber for the last six seasons, will be the substitute for the missing ingredient in a straight swap.  If Kimi’s successful return to Formula One is to simmer and boil further, an engineer who understands his needs is crucial. 

Wearing a helmet as a tribute to playboy James Hunt in Monaco last season demonstrated his penchant for the maverick.  He is as close to being a playboy as is allowed in current times and as long as this is indulged he will continue to produce.  The success of Kimi Raikkonen can be attributed to NOT following a recipe.

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