When I look back on the individual performances of 2016, there are a handful of particularly notable drivers. The performance of the cars has been so integral that drivers, no matter how good, are having to settle for whatever their car will manage. Identifying the best drivers has become more of a challenge from the outside.
It would be understandable for new fans to see Fernando Alonso as an average midfield racer. There is only so much a driver can do to drag an under-performing car to the front of the pack. The only real way of gauging a driver’s performances is to make the comparisons between team mates.
In that respect, one of the most impressive driver’s in 2016 was Kimi Raikkonen. His performance against four-time World Champion Vettel proved the Iceman still had his innate speed.
Rediscovering his relentless speed
I am excited to follow the continuation of that Ferrari rivalry when the new seasons gets under way. I have been a huge fan of Kimi’s since his time at McLaren, and his outrageous challenge to Michael Schumacher’s superiority. His talent was huge, and I still wonder how he has only managed to score one World title so far.
For Kimi, Formula One is about the racing, he has never held an interest in the deeper workings of the sport. As the racing has become needlessly complex and diluted, Kimi has tended to lose his motivation. The two years he spent Rallying were the culmination of that.
Since his return, he has yet to re-discover his very best form. Two wins at Lotus were up there with the best of his career. His return to Ferrari, however, has been littered with frustrations. The electronic elements in modern F1 cars were not providing the kind of feeling he wanted.
2016 was a good first step for him
Over the course of last season however, Raikkonen appeared to have rediscovered his love for Formula One. His Ferrari was finally beginning to listen to him, and he was feeling more and more comfortable in the car. By the final race of the year, Kimi and Sebastian were matching each other for pace.
At the age of 37, it is clear that the Finn is heading into the twilight of his career. I still rank him as one of the very best in Formula One, and with the likes of Roger Federer and Ronnie O’Sullivan providing further evidence that age is of little consequence, I still hold faith that Raikkonen still has what it takes to challenge for one more title.
Building confidence will be key to his efforts. If he feels comfortable in the car, the results will come. I get the sense that it will not take long for Raikkonen to suddenly re-capture his scintillating pace. He remains second on the all-time list for career fastest laps, the ability is there if he is able to use it.
Class is permanent
With the new regulations set to reduce the emphasis on engine performance, Ferrari may well become contenders again in 2017. A strong development over the winter could bring them right into contention for victories once again. You can be sure that Vettel will be pushing as hard as ever, an that will provide exactly the benchmark Kimi will need to find his best form.
Although Raikkonen will not be a favourite for the title this year, I see no reason why he can’t be a contender for race victories. Class is permanent, and Kimi has always been a very special talent in a racing car. I’m sincerely hoping we can see the very best of the Iceman at least one more time.
((3) Mark McArdle CC-BY-SA-2.0)
((1) Jake Archibald CC-BY-2.0)
((2) Morio CC-BY-SA-3.0)