Since the moment that Mark Webber announced his intention to leave Red Bull Racing, and Formula 1 entirely, there has been rampant speculation as to who RBR will tab to replace Aussie Grit in the cockpit.
Most people instantly assumed that Kimi Raikkonen would be Webber’s replacement and Sebastian Vettel’s new team mate, which was supported by the fact that Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner announced that Raikkonen topped the list of three drivers that RBR is interested in. This isn’t really anything new though, as the theory of Kimi joining up with Red Bull has been floating around since prior to the 2011 season when the Iceman decided to return to F1.
Given that Red Bull sponsored Raikkonen during his time driving in the World Rally Championship the theory made some sense. It would also make sense that RBR would try and get the best possible driver to partner with Vettel in order to build a dream team that Formula One fans would either drool over or despise. However, when you really look at the people involved and their personas the theory falls apart.
Despite the never ending denial across the F1 universe the simple fact is that teams do play favorites based on which driver is more talented. While they may not do something as blatant as give one driver a better car than his team mate they do tend to lend greater support their top guy and he is given the freedom to attack opponents on the track as he sees fit. There is nothing wrong with that system, until you try and put two number one guys on the same team.
Vettel is a juggernaut. He drives like a bat out of hell and will mysteriously not hear radio transmission telling him to settle for second place. This is mostly because he won’t settle for anything less than the top of the podium.
Kimi is a flat out competitor who will do whatever he has to in order to win a race and the driver’s championship. He doesn’t need an overbearing voice on the radio from pit lane telling him how to get into P1. In other words: leave him alone, he knows what he is doing.
Raikkonen is a number one driver and so is Vettel, which is why they would never be able to coexist on the same team.
Both Vettel and Raikkonen approach every race with only one thing in mind: win. Sure that sounds great and like it would net your team tons of points, but it also means that in all likelihood your two drivers are going to be battling with each other on the track frequently. That means they are running the risk of colliding and ending up having to retire from the race. Red Bull shouldn’t be looking to buy into the “win or crash trying” philosophy. Ricky Bobby shouldn’t be their guru.
Those who think the combo could work are probably about to hammer out a long comment about how Vettel and Webber have often tangled on the track but RBR has still managed three straight constructor’s championships. You’ll also mention that Vettel has won three straight driver’s championships, and that Reb Bull has flat out dominated the sport with two drivers that are willing to go toe-to-toe during any given Grand Prix. Well the reason why it has worked that way but won’t if Raikkonen joins is simple: Mark Webber is not Kimi Raikkonen.
Aussie Grit is one hell of a driver and could be a top guy for almost any team, but he isn’t as good as the Iceman. Kimi is relentless in his pursuit of victory just like Vettel and the other top cats in F1. He won’t dial it down to let Vettel take a win while he takes P2, and he damn sure won’t give Seb an easy pass if he is leading and Vettel is faster. It would tear the team apart.
If the crew from Milton Keynes is wise they will select a solid driver who will gobble up points and help carry them toward more constructor’s championships while leaving Vettel to do his thing. Either Daniel Ricciardo or Jean-Eric Vergne, the other two members of RBR’s short list, would be brilliant in such a role.
Raikkonen and Vettel are two of the best drivers on the planet, but putting them on the same team and expecting them to move over when asked to would be foolish.
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