Kimi Raikkonen arrived at Baku, home to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after witnessing a string of lows that may even have melted some of his quintessential un-meltable ice for a lack of better expression. No driver relishes a statistic against his name, especially when its a rather abominable one- five consecutive non-points finishes. This also included a DNF. Though, at Monaco, he came desperately close to finishing tenth, managing in the end a banal P11.
Whether or not you’d have noted, his position at the famous principality was exactly his result at the curtain-raiser of 2021- an eleventh.
Kimi Raikkonen entered Baku as a man under immense pressure
For Kimi Raikkonen, specifically speaking, it didn’t cut a pretty picture. For he’s no ordinary man; he’s the most experienced driver on the grid, a man who’s witnessed generations change, bright talents fade into the sunset, and moreover, a change in guard in Formula 1- the baton of greatness passing from the inimitable Michael Schumacher to the irrepressible Sir Lewis Hamilton. The Finn is someone whose total miles travelled in Formula 1 is actually equivalent to taking two full revolutions around the moon if that gives a fine idea of just what longevity means.
So it was absolutely vital that the Iceman scored points at Baku, else face the ignominy of seeing 0 points from 6 race entries. Something that would’ve appeared like an F grade on the report card of a bright, charismatic student.
But once again, an ordinary qualifying that stacked up him on fourteenth on the grid didn’t really give him a great chance to score. Though, in so doing, Raikkonen did make it to Q2 again in 2021.
That being said, true to his fervent abilities at making up a few places right at the start, the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix didn’t see any of that familiar Kimi Raikkonen magic. He’d remain on twelfth for the first six laps, though coming desperately close at catching Lance Stroll, whom he trailed by less than half a second.
Competition in the midfield for Kimi Raikkonen
Though, in stark contrast to much of the grid composed of the top ten, Raikkonen was operating on a different strategy, having been on the mediums allowed him to a slightly longer distance.
And with the likes of Ricciardo and Sainz and the others pitting, Kimi benefitted by moving up north. Lap 13 out of 51, a fourth of the race done, saw Kimi hanging out there but on eighth.
The true moment of reckoning came after he made a stop for the harder compounds nearly approaching the halfway stage where Alfa Romeo called him in for a set of hard compounds, meant to last until the checkered flag.
Sensing an under pressure Bottas, hanging by all his might on tenth, Raikkonen, then on eleventh would dive down the inside of his fellow Finn at the slowest corner of the track to move up into the point’s position.
But his job wasn’t done. He would be passed by a couple of cars and was still back on P12. In fact, at one stage, he all but passed the much quicker Alpine of Alonso.
But at times, it’s the unfolding of good fortune that assists the one who desperately needs it- right?
And with no fewer than a handful of laps remaining, everything changed for the better for Kimi come lap 47.
First Max crashed out in a fashion that, even though at 200 mph, wasn’t in a horrific fashion. Kimi, then on P12, moved up to eleventh.
Drama right at the end
And immediately after the red-flag session, as Hamilton, under heavy braking went straight on into the run-off area, instead of sliding nicely with the pack to the sharp left-hander, it meant another gain of position for the drivers further back in the midfield.
Raikkonen, immediately dived into P10, a position which he’d hold onto with all his composure and usual unruffled self.
Though, make no mistake, Giovonazzi, at that point, in P11, was just four tenths behind. Having clearly been the faster of the two drivers, he could’ve pounced on Kimi but the Iceman didn’t make any room for it.
And frankly, for a driver who perhaps has no haters with a globe-trotting fanbase of millions, there was much respite in the end, even if it meant scoring 1 point.
In some ways, even this dreadful run of form has been better. Do you know how?
Back in 2020, it wasn’t before nine races that the Iceman got going. Remember Tuscany? Moreover, a year back, Kimi begun with a DNF.
Still what needs to be done is to get more used to the front-heavy Alfa Romeo, to which Giovniazzi has adapted quite easily and without much ado. Raikkonen’s job, should he care a bit instead of giving a usual darn, is to prove to Vasseur that he’s got some fight in him even today. And that can be done by only scoring constantly. Even if the truth is, Alfa’s contest is also with Alpha Tauri, not just Williams and the Haas cars.