Lotus F1 Team ended a streak of disappointing finishes at the German Grand Prix by putting both of their drivers on the podium. It appears, however, that a P2 finish was not enough to satisfy Kimi Raikkonen as the Iceman is still asking for improvements from Lotus.
Raikkonen has been an even larger figure than usual in Formula 1 as the media continues to wait and see if he will answer the call of Red Bull Racing, who has made it no secret that Kimi is their top choice to replace Mark Webber for 2014. Despite the interest from his old World Rally Championship sponsor, Raikkonen seems to be giving his current team a chance to prove they can get him to another driver’s championship.
Kimi’s call for improvement really started after the Canadian Grand Prix. The Finn had trouble staying with the leaders, especially later on in the race, in Montreal and he was looking to the engineers to make some progress during the three weeks off between then and the British Grand Prix. Lotus responded with an upgrade package and tested a passive drag reduction device on the rear wing in the first two practices at Silverstone. The device didn’t work as well as expected, but Raikkonen looked impressive during the race, that is until the team made a pit strategy mistake.
Kimi was running in P2 and looked like he could challenge for the win late in the race at Silverstone, but when the safety car came out after Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire from the race Lotus opted not to pit Raikkonen while the other leaders turned in for fresh tires. That decision caused Kimi to slip off of the podium and end up in P5 at the end of the day. While P5 is certainly a respectable finish, it isn’t satisfying when P2 should have been easy.
The Iceman, who is normally emotionally reserved and at time flat out uninterested during interviews, made it very clear that he wasn’t pleased with Lotus and their failure to get the pit strategy correct. He later reinforced that by saying Lotus needed to find the podium in Germany in order to show progress. The team delivered with a double podium on Sunday, but Kimi still isn’t happy.
Raikkonen gave credit for Lotus’ improved speed to the dry, hot conditions at the Nurburgring and not to the team. “The heat apparently helps us because the car is no different than it was a week ago” was Kimi’s assessment of the German GP. He did give some credit to the car saying “after the first stop… the car was pretty good…but it was too close on the speeds so we didn’t really get a chance to overtake.” Raikkonen said that with a few more laps he might have been able to pass Vettel for the lead as he had narrowed the gap to 1.0s by the time that the checkered flag waved, but as Kimi summed it up, “it’s only 60 laps in this race and we have to try to make it happen in that time.”
Nobody should be surprised by this reaction from Raikkonen. This is Kimi being Kimi. He wants to win races and by doing so win another World Championship, so he isn’t going to be satisfied with anything less. The good news for Lotus is that they are improving as the races go by. At Monaco Kimi got robbed of a top 5 by Sergio Perez, in Montreal his E21 didn’t have the speed to be competitive and that’s when he got vocal. Since then Kimi has a P5 and a P2, which is undeniably progress but not where Raikkonen wants to be.
The Hungarian Grand Prix is the next race on the schedule and last year Raikkonen qualified P5 and finished P2 on race day at that circuit. With 19 days until FP1 in Budapest, Lotus has plenty of time to develop upgrades and get Kimi a win. If they can respond to his demand for improvement they may well convince the Iceman to stick with Lotus past the end of his contract at the conclusion of the season.
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