Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa disagree on traction control

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When I read Kimi Raikkonen’s response at the 2008 Ferrari launch on Sunday to a question about whether banning traction control will make F1 less safe I was delighted to see he’d offered an opinion about it.

And when I realised what he said went completely against team mate Felipe Massa’s feelings I was even more intrigued. Here’s what Raikkonen had to say:

The sport is dangerous anyway. It doesn’t matter if you have traction control or not. If you think it is too dangerous you probably shouldn’t be in the sport. It is more tricky for sure, you need to be awake more of the time.

That’s a pretty direct response from someone who rarely says much at all at press conferences. Read those words again, “If you think it is too dangerous you probably shouldn’t be in the sport,” and then look what Massa had to say about the traction control ban in November:

From a safety point of view, these limitations in the use of electronics look like a step backwards to me: in the event of wet races we’ll have a lot more accidents.

This is quite curious. F1 drivers can be reluctant to offer opinions, preferring not to rock the boat and hide behind bland public relations-approved quotes.

But I think the traction control debate has touched a nerve and just as some of them feel passionately that the traction control ban is a threat to safety, so others feel that the ban is good for the sport and that F1 has to be dangerous up to a point.

My heart agrees with Raikkonen, but I know in my head that I have no frame of reference for what it is like to drive an F1 car at 200mph down the main straight at Fuji in pouring rain and blinding spray. I think it is up to the drivers to make the call on this one.

And I can’t help but wonder if Raikkonen’s choice of words hint at a certain disrespect for his team mate’s abilities. After all, Massa has not been the most impressive of drivers in the wet.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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37 comments on “Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa disagree on traction control”

  1. Go Kimi!!
    If they cannot drive in the wet stay home.
    I cannot stay home when it rains, i have to go to work. With the money F1 drivers get paid it is pathetic to complain about less than perfect conditions.
    They could also let me drive their car in the wet and get showed up by a 50 year old.

  2. I agree with you Keith, this could be the mind games kicking in, only 7 days into the new year. It the make or break year for Massa, if he can’t beat Kimi this year, he will be another Reubens offering fine support but never a champion in his own right.

  3. TC ban will do its bit to seperate the top drivers from the decent ones… Massa has a bit more to do to prove he is in the former group… Who knows maybe the TC ban is what helps him… All in all hopefully things are going to get exciting thanks to it.

  4. I can see the TC ban slowing down drivers mentally!

    It will 100% be a make or break year for some.

  5. I completely agree with Paul.

  6. The main problem with Massa has always been that he’s poor at overtaking. He can defend well, but he never seems keen to initiate manouvers. Obviously overtaking is pretty difficult in F1 overall, but that’s my read of Massa.

  7. “If they cannot drive in the wet stay home.
    I cannot stay home when it rains, i have to go to work.”

    Are you driving at 200 mph down the motorway in a single-seater on the ragged edge of performance and grip? With all due respect, that’s a pretty lame argument.

    “With the money F1 drivers get paid it is pathetic to complain about less than perfect conditions.”

    This is the argument Jackie Stewart enountered when he tried to stop folk getting killed so regularly and actually bother to provide some decent medial facilities. Just because they get paid a lot doesn’t mean they should accept whatever risk we have little everyday experience of.

    Look, I’m not saying the drivers are right or wrong on the TC ban in the wet. I think Keith is spot on when he says “I have no frame of reference for what it is like to drive an F1 car at 200mph down the main straight at Fuji in pouring rain and blinding spray. I think it is up to the drivers to make the call on this one.”

    Very easy to be an armchair critic.

  8. Kimi’s words are open to a lot of (mis)interpretations, unfortunately. When he says, “If you think it is too dangerous you probably shouldn’t be in the sport”, he probably isn’t trying to offend anyone. He merely tries to tell that whatever it is, they’ve to try and adapt to it. The problem here is his word usage is not sufficient.

  9. “It is more tricky for sure, you need to be awake more of the time.” – Good advice from Kimi, I hope he takes after it himself.

    I’m not sure I agree that Kimi’s words were, directly, a swipe at Massa’s abilities or opinion. I think he would’ve said the things he said anyway despite whatever Massa said a couple of months ago – if indeed he remembers.

    Everyone’s made a fair point so far in regard to this, however I do see this as a bit of a preemptive excuse from Massa.

    In the end, I guess all drivers are speculating what will/wont happen and they would be the most qualified to do so.

    I do personally think that those who are clearly confident in their abilities, or don’t care and just get on with it, are those who are able to rise up to any challenge the rule book throws at them.

    Could the FIA be held responsible if a death is proven to be, directly or indirectly, caused by a recent rule change? If so, then I seriously doubt the FIA would’ve taken the gamble.

  10. They’ve never been prosecuted before, I would imagine they have all kinds of strongly-worded disclaimers. The Italian authorities tried to prosecute several Williams team members and the Imola circuit owner Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994, but were not successful.

  11. kudos to you Keith for stating the fact we have no frame of reference.

    I think you spoted something. I saw a Stirling moss interview he did some years ago and he was asked about the safety now in F1.

    SM had nothing against that but said as far as he was concerned the joy of driving F1 was the danger.

    The speeds were far less than today but if he missed something he was dead.

    I think maybe today a shift happened. F1 car are harder to drive (require more precise skills) , you have to be very fit to do so, especially mentally so maybe now, F1 is more a “sport” when before it was more of “challenge”, a way of life.

    By the way, i think it is quite obvious the TC ban will make things more dangerous, but it is a question of probabilities…

    We can’t really judge the consequences as all is done with probabilities.

    For example, today pilots love the high speed corners of F1 (look at the recent Mclaren interview of the 4 pilots, when asked their favorite corner, they all answer a high speed one), but if one day one pilot died following a high speed crash, i think the mentality toward high speed corner would change.
    Thus, we can’t say cornering speed of F1 vs the safety is today sufficient. We can only say, that as of today no one died from it.

    I think then we need time to see if TC ban adapted to f1 is too dangerous or not.

    Anyway the fact that an F1 without TC is hell a thing to control is quite good i think for the driving challenge.

  12. AmericanTifosi
    8th January 2008, 13:18

    The TC ban should not be that dangerous to drivers who can sufficently cope with it. (Like Kimi!) About the mind games thing, that’s an intreging observation but I doubt Kimi would do that. It seems like more of a straightorward answer to me. But, if I’m wrong…

  13. AmericanTifosi
    8th January 2008, 13:26

    I just read this quote by Heikki Kovalainen on the official F1 website:

    “Of course the driver makes more of a difference now, especially in wet conditions, but that is the beauty of racing – you can test your limits, go right to the edge and still make the next corner. I don’t see any problems in whatever conditions and in the end we all know that racing is dangerous.”

    The Finns think alike no?

  14. For sure, Kimi has already broken one of the new year’s resolutions… :)

  15. The way I see it the time when you get the most benefit from TC is at lower speeds. If you spin out doing 40kph is it really that dangerous? How much is the TC really working at 200kph?

    If I were Massa I would be more concerned about how fragile the suspension is and how dangerous that can be if it fails in a high speed turn…. Especially all the times he goes off roading.

  16. I was thinking about that Dan. The traction control systems also allowed the teams to use engine braking which they won’t be able to do in 2008.

    Given the amount of power the cars have and how light they are the traction control probably does kick in even in the high gears in wet weather.

    Of course, it also depends whether the driver has configured the car to use traction control heavily or not.

  17. With an F1 car you can spin at 100mph without any problem.

    Alex wurtz even commented that it was possible to spin the wheels with TC on.

  18. Kimi and Heikki’s comments elevate my level of respect for both of them. As someone else here observed, a possible Finnish trait, “I’ll trust my skills and race whatever they put under me”. And I have little doubt it was a subtle message to the rest of the drivers if not to his teammate.

  19. I race 125 ICC Gearbox karts, 6 speed gearbox, 120mph at the likes of Donington Park. When its dry, its tough, but when it rains, its like driving on an ice rink, because the amount of power these karts put out is astounding. So I can, very vaguely though, relate to the danger!! Nowhere near an F1 car mind :)

    Drivers like Jenson and Lewis who did karting will have no problems driving without TC, because thats what they had to do throughout karting! The drivers who didnt, maybe Nakajima, will struggle. Now there will be a real difference between the drivers who have come up through the ranks, and those who have paid their way up.

  20. I find it incredible in this day and age that people still think that drivers should take insane risks. The problem in Fuji was not grip it was lack of visibility. Sure a few drivers went off the track but the real problem with single seater cars in those conditions is that the driver cannot see anything. Those of us who are old enough remember Didier Pironi going into a ball of spray at Hockenheim in 1982 only to find that Alain Prost was going very slowly in it. Pironi hit the back of Prost’s car and trashed his legs. He never raced again. Is anyone seriously suggesting those kinds of stupid risks are acceptable. Driving at Fuji in that weather is like driving most of the lap wearing a blindfold.

    As to whether the FIA will ever be prosecuted. I have to say that is very unlikely. The Senna accident regardless of other factors was caused by the FIA. Piquet hit the same wall a few years earlier. To most of us a driver hitting an unprotected wall at speed would have rung alarm bells. Not the FIA. A couple of years later Berger hit the same wall in a Ferrari. The car burst into flames and a worldwide TV audience sat and watch Gerhard sit not moving in a burning car for 30 seconds before a marshal appeared on the scene. In the end he suffered minor burning but while we were watching it most of us thought he was dead. The FIA still did nothing. Then Senna hit the same wall and died. Then the FIA changed the layout of the track.

    You don’t need to be the highest paid lawyer on the planet to prove that the FIA had taken no action despite previous serious accidents at the same spot. They were demonstrably complacent and negligent. But Williams were dragged through the courts and the FIA were never charged with anything.

  21. a point raised there on engine braking – in motor bikes and running classic cars at the time using the engine braking effect was always desirable as the brakes were either poor or not there when you needed them – but my son in law who is a driving instructor chides me for doing so as they always tell the learners to use the brakes first – times change – but i still do it

  22. I’d have thought that the difference in safety (if it’s possible to quantify safety and therefore measure one set of circumstances against another) that traction control offers while driving an F1 car at 200mph down the main straight at Fuji in pouring rain and blinding spray would be fairly negligible?

    If anything – Massa may be safer watching the race from the pits with a broken Ferrari if he thinks he’s likely to spin off!

  23. Driving my Lotus Esprit at high speed means i concentrate a lot more than doing say 50mph. Hardly an armchair critic. Driving my old Triumph at anything above 80mph requires even more concentration. These guys are in highly engineered space craft compared to anything me or the average guy will ever drive.
    I have not raced anything since 1978 but i can tell you that driving any form of race car has no resemblance to anything you can experience in a road car.
    For me i love driving in the wet because there are less idiots around.

    If these guys cannot drive an F1 car in the wet with just 21 other cars around them or want computer controled cars then they should stay home or pay for their seat. There are thousands of young kids with the skill to compete, they just don’t have the cash or sponsers.
    It’s called racing.
    If you want it safe (and boring) it’s called Play Station.

    Fuji is a bad example, it will be the same in 2 years time. They know it will rain. Scrap Fuji.

  24. I agree with Steven Roy and would add, that in 1994 the FIA had just band electronic driver aids from the year before, eg active suspension and traction control. I think they also reduced the tyre widths, which together made the cars very unstable. Williams seemed to suffer most as they had invested most into this technology which won them drivers championships in 1992 & 1993.

  25. F1 should be dangerous. If it were safe your granny could do it. The drivers are supposed to be heroes, people with almost superhuman skills and the balls to be strapped into a 200 mph projectile and race in all conditions. That’s where F1’s glamour and appeal comes from, and that’s why the drivers get paid ungodly amounts of money. Kimi’s right; any driver who thinks F1 – with or without traction control – may be too dangerous should consider learning golf.

  26. I love Kimi as much as the next non-tifosi, and the comments are refreshing. lets just hope he’ll be more ‘awake’ than at ’06 Hungary GP, when he rear-ended a backmarker like he was rubbing his eyes & yawning!!

  27. Kimi actually stated that the hard part for him, either with a large lead or in a position he could not improve, was staying interested in the drive and staying awake. He often puts in the race fast lap with a lap or two to go, to show he could go faster, if it had mattered.

  28. The two occasions I remember him banging in a late fastest lap last year were at Hungaroring and Istanbul, both occasions when he was in second place, felt he couldn’t overtake, and said he was bored:

    Raikkonen: “I was bored”

  29. “You need to be awake more of the time”……. interesting words. Ever notice when the top three pull into parc fermee and pop out of their cars, hardly a drop of persperation ……….. I remember Mario Andretti alighting from his Lotus (that would be the late 1970s for our younger readers) looking physically drained. No power steering (is that a driver aid?) hand gear change, no finger tip paddles (is that another driver aid)? A wrap of duct tape around his throttle foot (the throttle was cable and spring operated, no electronic ‘drive by wire’ in those days (is that yet another driver aid)? Yes….. F1 has changed. but for the better?
    Traction Control was a driver function, not a device in/on the car.

  30. I’m going to be controversial here, Number 38, and ask how much of that was that the cars were harder to drive, and how much is it that today’s drivers are better trained for the physical demands of racing cars?

  31. I’m with you on that score Kieth. Today’s drivers train like animals as opposed to partying like animals 30 years ago. Can’t say it’s better, it’s just the way it is.

  32. I bet if Kimi was to drive an old F1 car (lets say slicks and turbo)today, he would say it was more fun. He does not call himself James Hunt without reason).
    Shouldn’t everyone have some fun at work?
    So the “old days” were better.

  33. Well, I don’t think Kimi took a swipe at anyone, he just replied to a question with his honest opinion. He’s one of the very few drivers who said that he would be up for racing on the Nordschleife with an F1 car if a race would take place there. I don’t think he tries to say he’s harder than anyone else, he’s probably just not really afraid and has lots of trust in his own abilities. In the end it is the driver himself who decides where the car goes and how fast it should go.

  34. F1 Racing this month has a large section on December’s testing and reports that Massa seems to be taking longer to adapt to life without it than most.

    In Massa’s earlier career in F1 at Sauber he was known as wild and prone to throwing the car off the road – could it be that Ferrari’s Traction Control systems are what’s been calming his driving style? 2008 could be a disaster for him if this is the case.

  35. I suppose the Finn drivers will view the banning of TC in F1 in a more positive light than drivers from tropical countries like Massa.

    The Finns have been involved in winter sports, e.g. ski jumping, which in many ways is like driving without TC.

    So culturally, dangerous sports have always been the Finns cup of tea.

  36. I agree with powerline I think Finns like dangerous sports in general, and they like winning in the face of adversity with honour and bravery.

    Lets face it Kimi has always been brave in racing, like his stunt at Eau de Rouge in 2002. Or the way he past the most cars at Fuji, and his snow mobile racing.

    Obviously Kimi loves the danger, Kimi is a old school driver and he embodies what F1 used to be, even he himself has stated he was born in the wrong era.

    So I conclude that, Kimi was just being honest as usual no mind games involved. He himself properly just doesn’t think it is going to be more dangerous. No digs at Massa, it seems more like someone is trying take a dig at Kimi again.

    By the way since has traction control become a safety devise? With the run off areas drivers are safer then ever, there wasn’t even many dnf’s at Fuji this year.

    And why is it that some people assume that drivers with safety concerns (DC, Massa), have a more valid claim or argument, then Kimi and Heikki? Kimi is world champion if doesn’t have any issues, then I for one believe him.

  37. I think Kimi has a fantastic attutude towards racing (let’s not forget it’s a professional blood sport)… he is a true racer who naturally takes responsibility for his own actions. It’s a very honest way of living and I wish more people thought in the same way. What he had to say was very simple; if a driver doesn’t like an aspect of the sport then they shouldn’t be taking part. It wasnt really a dig at Massa, just a general comment to people who think like him. Racing drivers should accept the danger and race because they want to go faster than anyone else, it’s a way of life and if some of them can’t accept that they should give up.

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