What’s behind the rise and further rise of Kimi Raikkonen in F1 2016?
Scuderia Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Nov 2016   |  6:56 pm GMT  |  85 comments

If you had asked a cross section of F1 insiders and fans at the start of the season for a prediction of where the two Ferrari drivers would stand on competitiveness, few of them would have predicted 10-10 in qualifying at this stage.

Kimi Raikkonen’s astonishing third place in Brazil qualifying, ahead of Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel is the fourth race in a row that the Finn has out qualified his younger, four times world champion team mate. This time last year Vettel was solidly ahead on all metrics and had won three races.

Yet Raikkonen has been resurgent this season and in the F1 world drivers’ championship standings there are only 9 points between them, with Vettel having got ahead in Austin, where Raikkonen retired.

Kimi Raikkonen

So what lies behind this turnaround for Raikkonen?

Typically the phlegmatic Finn is not giving anything away and will say only that the car suits him better. A large part of his problem before was in the front end of the car and the sensitivity on cornering.

Perhaps Raikkonen’s style is more dependent on the front end than some other drivers, but the word is that the key change that has brought this renaissance about is Ferrari’s switch from pull-rod from suspension to push-rod.

Ferrari had been an outlier in the previous seasons, as the sole team opting to use a system which lowers the centre of gravity of the car and which Ferrari perceived could help with aerodynamics – as it takes the strut away from some of the vortices off the front wing.

The push-rod suspension, which has a diagonal strut from the wheels to the rocker, has better geometry and has proved more confidence-inspiring for the drivers.

The weakness of this year’s Ferrari is in low speed corners, both in aerodynamics and mechanical traction. The strength is the engine and clearly the front end of the car is working well, which gives the team something to build on for next season, when the cars will have higher downforce and more mechanical grip from the tyres. The floor and diffuser of the cars will be much more important than today and it is from there that the majority of the extra downforce to make the cars four to five seconds a lap faster will come.

Kimi Raikkonen

Today was a good example of Raikkonen’s 2016 form; he was fastest in Sectors 1 and 3 during the Saturday practice session, only losing ground to the other teams in the long middle sector where low speed aero is the key. Precision is the name of the game at Interlagos as the lap is short and the lines are defined so the added confidence from the front end of the car doing exactly what he wanted it to do, gave Raikkonen the edge and showed that at 37 he still has plenty to offer in F1.

“I think we’re lacking a bit of downforce overall there [Sector 2], comparing maybe to the guys in front of us – but you know the car’s been behaving today, pretty good and just been struggling on the tight corners to turn around the car and a bit of front-locking so obviously it’s been a bit guessing whether we can turn or not,” said the Finn.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene denied again this weekend that Vettel is in ‘crisis’ or that his fiery behaviour in Mexico showed his frustration at a season of broken dreams.

“Sebastian is quite emotional. Sometimes he looks a bit more Latino than German,” said Arrivabene. “He’s very passionate, especially when he’s driving and it’s in a racing battle.

“It’s not a question of frustration. Sometimes he can be unhappy as we are unhappy because our expectations are different. But he’s not a guy who is giving up; he’s a guy that is pushing like hell. Sometimes when the adrenalin is going up to the sky, maybe he’s choosing a word more than what is expected, but then my role, like in Mexico, is also to call him and to invite him to be focused on what he’s doing.”

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below

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The only thing I did’ TNT like was the front nose, I like the the single plane front nose better. I think they are probably looking for more down force. Time will tell!


I believe its more to do with Vettel’s fall in speed than anything different Kimi might be doing. It seems when Vettel doesn’t see any chance of challenging for a win or title
he doesn’t appear to show his best speed. His last season with RB we also seen a drop in his speed aswell and Ricardo was showing he was clearly faster, unlike Alonso that will fight tooth and nail for 12th like it was for a win. I was a Kimi fan in the early years but he’s dropped his game and i have no idea why Ferrari took him back.


Tnx james great insight as always its not just from this year last year austin was the 1st example that he was keen to perform well however this year car is much closer to his like so his performance level has increased and as he getting confidence in it so its getting better and better where Vettel who out perfomed his mate last year and the same mate getting better and better however he still nt able to cash in on opportunities which is creating pressure i would love to hear from you, has his change of form in qualifying has changed your mind set a bit 😜


Kimi is simply showing that given a car that is to his liking, he is still capable of taking on all comers, and producing good decent results. Seb simply needs a new dummy!


10-10 in qualifying, but 9-3 to Vettel in races where they’ve both finished, if I’ve counted correctly.
Based on some of the curious strategies that have been handed to Kimi when he’s found himself in front of Vettel on track, I get the impression that Kimi’s qualifying speed is rather an inconvenience for Ferrari. A return to pull-rods next year perhaps?


Nice little peak into Kimi’s “reason why”, a driver 99.9% of the fans appreciate. Although I do believe the previous odd years of poor performance were mainly affected by his own personal situation (divorce, doubts, motivation).


Oh Rubbish -85-90% of a drivers success or failure is to do with the car/team. The cars were poor and the team made/still making some 1 sided decisions.. thats it


Perhaps the change from pull rod to push rod front suspension for the 2016 car suits kimi better. On the similar note, the pull rod design of 2014/15 cars may be part of the reason for lack lustre performances in comparison to Alonso???


Kimi’s performance in qualifying this season kind of questions the idea of driver getting slower in qualifying as one gets older. If you are quick then you are quick. Alonso is getting old too but sometimes he just pulls out some amazing laps from that crappy McHonda.


Kimi proves to be a remarkable talent, thank God he came back to us from NASCAR and will lead Ferrari back to winning ways, way to go Kimi !!!


Ive noted here since Monza last year that Kimis quali pace was often exceptional but many seem to have kissed this. It was inconsistent over the last few years due to trickier adaptability/feel of the pullrod suspension. Of course earlier this year that improvement has been masked by team problems and generally just re-adjusting to the SF-16H.

Its very important that Ferrari do not just see Raikkonen as the “retiring driver” in 2017 and more a strong possiblility of a “title contender” in making those tough strategy decisions when both cars are close- this has been a big issue already this year. Otherwise they may have the Mclaren 2007 problem between their 2 drivers.

Like Raikkonen has said its alot of small details slowly coming together-more so his team of engineers becoming more intuitive with each race that has been the real progress..I suppose off track he looks happy too with a stunning wife and son to go home to and that always steadys the ship.

Ive always been a staunch supporter with the only real caveat that he needs full support from his team or he should just walk away- this too has been noted by Arrivabene since Singapore. Ive never doubted his ability and Im glad hes proven so many in the paddock (and here) to be very short sighted. In any endeavour in life people with that level of exceptional talent dont just fade away-theres always more to it.

Kimi Raikkonen -proving people wrong since 2001.


Kimi has very unique driving style just like Lewis.

He believes in shortening corner is the fastest way to go.

However, the front end has to bite for his microsteering movement to take effect.
That;s why he often request for super sensitive power steering, where most drivers would’ve refuse that kind of setup.


I think it’s because Vettel’s form is not that good. Still, Vettel is ahead by 9 points. Who would have thought earlier in the season that Ricciardo could be 3rd in the championship ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen? The battle for 4th place is interesting: Vettel, Raikkonen and Verstappen all have a chance.


Fair point, though he wouldn’t be 9 points ahead if it wasn’t for the DNF Kimi got last race and for reasons that the team are to be blamed for


Perhaps he would be even more ahead had his engine not let go on the warm-up lap in Bahrain.


While Kim has improved Vettel has become inconsistent, desperate, more mistakes and pressured.

He is simply NOT in a happy situation and is reflected in his driving.


Agreed there @Shri.

I have my personal dislikes of Vettel since the days he was at RBR especially with the unfair (IMO) battles with Mark Webber. I was happy to see DR come in and pull the carpet from under his feet at RBR, “forcing” him t make the move to Ferrari.

At Ferrari, and with Kimi’s great resurgence this year, it seems like Vettel is feeling the heat again from a team mate that he thought he could dominate on the track and this surely would put more pressure on him mentally, if nothing else


Ha! An Italian telling a German to settle down. Awesome.


History clearly shows that when he has the support of the team Kimi just flat out wins. This year I get the sense things are more equal in the team, as Vettel seems to have lost some support.


I think its great for F1 to have a new 19 years old star doing very well and a 37 years old still showing some of his tremendous skills he used to have around 2000-2005. Its a great sporting story, I think.


Mansell was 40 in ’92 and able to compete as I recall… Williams had their pick of all drivers and chose him so I think (old) age is not necessarily a big factor in the late thirties elite drivers.


James, Peter has touched on a good subject here. Have you ever thought to write down an article on the relation/correlation between the driver performances and their age? Such that how long can they stay on their peak? Lately Alonso said he does not think that drivers do get slower with age? Do you agree with him on that? or does it that the fitness programmes of todays’ drivers make them more consistent compared to their fellow colleagues in 70s-80s for instance?


Good idea

I’ll work on it


It’s going to be hard to do because of the need to take car factors out. Was Senna slower in 92 & 93 than he was in 90/91. Was Lauda faster in 84 than he was in 78 ? I’d suggest that he was smarter but slower. Ditto Prost.
I can tell you that 29 year-olds have won more races than any other age (101 vs 75 for 30 year-olds, and 76 for 31) , and it’s the same story for points, poles and fastest laps.
28 year old have had the most race starts, followed by 29 year olds. The average points per race starts is for 43 year olds (very few people race at that age, but Fangio, Graham Hill, Schumacher, and Farina did).

I suspect what you’ll find is few drivers get into front-running teams when they are young, and most drivers in front running teams are in bracket of 29 +/- 2 years. (Red Bull is 28.8 McLaren 30.5 , Ferrari 31.6, Mercedes 32.6 – thought that includes Fangio from the 50s and Schumacher) . By the time they are in the best car of their career they may have lost a little of their outright speed but make up for in race craft.

(BTW if the powers that be on the site could use the database I’ve built which has all these stats in, you have my email)


Will be looking forward to that James.
Thanks @Peter for the suggestion


to be honest man Schumacher was as fast in 06 than when he won the championship in 2000…It really shows age is not such a huge factor…you really need the car dialed in! but on the contrary older drivers do struggle to adapt a bit more example webber with ebd cars


I believe it also has something to do with his new engineer. He struggled to get along with previous ones since he came to Ferrari again.


At least his engineer apologized yesterday to Kimi after the qualifier, as he had started talking during Kimi’s hot-lap. So appear to understand better what Kimi needs and what he absolute do not need. And its clear Kimi do not need a babysitter or one trying to massage his ego, as some other drivers do.
Kimi just needs a race engineer who can keep his mouth shut. ;o)



I have been pondering this for a while, but could this also be the reason that the car design philosophy was following a James Allison curve, and this would be a major factor in his improving performances? We can all remember how good he was in the Renault that James designed for him, back in the day?


2+2 =


Man, where’s Sebee when you need him? 🙂


I love Sebee and agree with much that’s written on this hallowed tablet…. but really?
You are playing with fire Random!!


Let’s not jinx it.
It’s looking, “pretty ok”, at the moment.
Improved form:
Maybe not getting the wooden shoe thrown into the gears (so far).
Getting (more or less) equitable treatment in the garage, probably.
But weekend is young, and we’ll not forget that Kimi is surrounded on the starting grid by the main characters who have driven into him, or driven him off the road this year.
It would be a good time for SV to vent his frustration on the blue cars (RB), with maybe a little bit too much optimism going into the first corner!?!
I’d love to see a solid race with no one taking the red #7 out, including mechanical failure.


These sort of things are rarely down to one factor, but it is likely that Seb is feeling the Ferrari pressure more than Kimi, and performances reflect this.


No doubt Red Bull will find another way to [mod] and get ahead. Will Max cut out a corner again or put another drivers life in danger? Will Ricciardo go to the stewards? Will Charlie turn a blind eye again? Or will Toro Rosso hold up rival teams to Red Bull’s benefit? Your guess is as good as mine.


What this has to do with Kimi’s rise, I do not know…


Whahahaha you are such a salty Ferrari fan and so wrong! It’s actually pretty funny! (The fact people can still be fans of Ferrari these days).


I’d say Ferrari should just drive a bit faster, then none of these things would happen.


Or will Toro Rosso hold up rival teams to Red Bull’s benefit?

I’m hoping that Lewis will hold up Rosberg to benefit both Red Bull and Ferrari. So that it won’t be another 1-2 for Mercedes. Now that would make for an interesting race!


Since you talk about being gentleman… holding up, then crashing… innocently into LH will help Rosberg; worth considering. Then let’s see LH face.


Anyone else noticed how Arrivabene sounds more and more like Raikkonen? Mwell I mean….


James this is quite a reappraisal of Kimi from you considering before his deal deal for ’17 was announced at Silverstone I think it was you like most of the other F1 journalists thought he was finished and completely washed up. I think the fact that :
1 . Kimi doesn’t get involved in Ferrari’s political soap operas.
2 The fact that he’s desperate to to prove himself against up and coming stars like Max and prove he is good enough to compete with them.
3. Kimi I think felt embarrassed by the drubbings he took in ’14 and ’15 from team mates and decided it wasn’t something he was going to allow for a 3rd straight year so I think he has applied himself better to the task at hand this year.
4 . His marriage has relaxed him I think.
Those are 4 key factors in Kimi’s return to form in my view.


@Stephen Taylor

It’s all about the car and the team going in the right direction.

Kimi’s really not desperate to prove himself against anyone but himself. Nor does he care the least about the performance of his team mates.

Those two traits are typically part of any successful Finnish personality.


“Reappraisal” lol – more like complete about turn.
“Astonishing”- 3rd Place he qualified 2nd at Monza last year- so the form was building for some time.


true that


I always take as I find and hence this post.

I think you can add the settled family situation with his kid to that list and the fact that he clearly doesn’t hit the booze so much these days.


And we see him less dressing up in gorilla suits and winning extreme snowmobile races. But I still love that Kimi is back at the front in F1 !


May be Johny walker or Heineken could consider him for a sponsor then!


James wasn’t he a bit faster during his mclaren days known for drinking and what not ?


Yes but younger then


It makes me wonder if Lewis is behaving in a similar manner , ie his late nights and partying, and he gets away with it because
1) he’s in a Mercedes
2) he also is young

If so, how much would he be if he applied himself


Herowassenna1 Star2 Star3 Star4 Star
It makes me wonder if Lewis is behaving in a similar manner , ie his late nights and partying, and he gets away with it because
1) he’s in a Mercedes
2) he also is young
If so, how much would he be if he applied himself

He would just be a really really good F1 star without life. Nothing else, just an F1 star. Let him live a little. Let him be happy. Football stars don’t get so much criticism. Let the F1 stars life a little, a little bit more exposure will actually promote the sport.


regarding your point 3
I think Kimi knew from his first visit to Maranello in december 2013 that the car for 2014 was not going to suit his skills. He knew he would have trouble getting performance out of it. He knew Alonso would get more performance and more points. He knew Alonso would flaunt himself as a better driver. But did he care?
Not in the slightest. The team wanted him for the long haul, and that was the deal. No other driver on the grid has that much strength of character or can be so indifferent to what the journos and so-called experts say.


And Kimi is the perfect team player!
Never dishing his team or his team mate no matter the situation.


that 14 ferrari was awful…alonso knew how to drive them and kimi just couldn’t this year definitely shows how a relaxed style suits Kimi and he can get his best out…if he’s just given the car and no bs around it….
I can’t believe he had received so much hate all these years from the media but this guy is top notch no surprises he’s a world champion. Now rightfully the media is recognizing kimi’s performances!


All very likely and possible, but if I had to put my neck on the block for the Ice Man’s speed, I would reckon that these 2016 spec Pirelli’s have a slight bias towards mild mid corner understeer.

In order to dial out a lack of grip at the front requires the aero balance/downforce distribution to be shifted more towards the front, making the rear end slightly nervous and not as stable as the majority of the downforce is forward orientated. It has been noticeable that Sebastian Vettel requires more downforce at the rear for him to completely happy with his machine, and he does tend to struggle if the rear grip does not come upto standard – a la Red Bull 2014. A penny for my thoughts says it’s because of the necessity for the Class of 2016 to have more downforce on the front to eliminate the understeer characteristics of the 2016 Pirelli’s is why Kimi is quicker, because he is more at ease with a snappy, lively rear end than his team-mate.


@ james….considering the point raised re Pirelli tyres and bias towards understeer surely this is a red herring. The understeer/oversteer characteristics are surely part of the way in which the car is set up as all teams would be effected if the tyres were built with an inherent understeer element. They would treat their set ups as per what is required by the drivers and the technical requirements re longevity/wear rates etc etc etc.


I don’t think that argument holds, because Vettel is probably the best out there in wet conditions…and those conditions destabilize the rear even more


Do you think Vettel adjusted his driving so much to suit the exhaust blown diffuser he now needs a car with a lot more rear balance.


The Vettel rear downforce point is a good one and that’s where the emphasis will be on the downforce gain for 2017, so that could well play to his strengths


James, I’m curious to know if you still think Vettel is as good as Hamilton and Alonso?


I have always said he is less adaptable than them, which is a negative. This year is a little like his 2014 season.

Hamilton has had mixed years in his McLaren days, when outside distractions were blamed for some slumps in form. Alonso is probably the most consistent of the three but isn’t as outright fast. So it’s a nuanced discussion


James, very interesting!
There seems to be some drivers more consistent and adaptable. Others the very best when everything is right, but are a bit sensitive.
A – Alonso (2012 was incredible)! Hamilton, Ricciardo.
B – Button, Kimi and Vettel


If all three would have attended ROC, we could have known better… as far as I know LH and FA have not participated. I agree FA is more versatile and slower, but I am not sure if LH is more adaptable than SV… clutch, gloves and wheel specially customized, oportunities wasted in a great car, etc. For me is no. The thing I think Vettel is suffering is a lack of confidence when things don’t go his way, he really can be overpowered and underperforming becomes norm. That was so easily noticed in his duel with Ricciardo, Daniel dominating him from the get go, before jumping in the car. Whinnig is speaking volume about Seb’s personality. Vettel needs a shrink to help him get proper groomed balls in place (read confident and man). Something goes wrong with Ferrari and Vettel is badly suffering.


You really think competing in race of champions, defines how good a driver is?


There should be a comon denominator I guess, at least in ROC you can see them in the same cars. ROC may not be a real race but you can see something else than running around in the best car with no way to get caught


really fair assessment people forget how hamilton fell behind in 10,11,12 seasons in mclaren or even 09…
Vettel is a really fast driver and his championship wins were a lot harder than Hamilton’s Merce wins to be honest


Would be great to see Ferrari not forget Kimi is on the team during races. He is in the lead until first pit stops then they do something crazy and he is behind Seb rest of race. Trying giving Kimi a good strategy for once.


One of J Allison’s mistakes was to postpone the switch to push-rod suspension last year. Since it’s happened Kimi is flying although there is much still to do on this car. If the right decisions are taken with development for 2017, Kimi will bring more success.
Give Kimi a decent car and we will see if any other driver presently in F1 can match his speed and precision, even at 37!


I agree. (Posting just after Kimi has gone fastest in pre-season testing)! To be honest, I hadn’t noticed his rise last year (2016). I loved the way he won with Lotus, then it fell away at Ferrari. I thought he was a spent force.
But, the push-rod / pull-rod problem explains it. I am excited to see what he can do this year. I am starting to think world champion, and, that’s exciting!
Alonso can’t do it this year, obviously. Hamilton is a strong candidate (but he has won 3). Vettel has won 4, so I am not rooting for him, even though he will be up there, judging by the car!
So, we have the prospect of Kimi, Bottas, Daniel and Max being contenders! Plus, I would like to see Williams up there too (although I think that is a big stretch for Massa and Stroll – for different reasons).
Bring it on….!


and we will see if any other driver presently in F1 can match his speed

You probably realise this already, but you got carried away a little there. With the drivers there are in the field today, safe to say that there are at least a few that will be well ahead.


He showed enough with Lotus Renault in ’12-’13., let alone way before that.

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