Kimi Raikkonen’s qualifying problems

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Kimi Raikkonen has spoken about his problems in qualifying
Kimi Raikkonen has spoken about his problems in qualifying

Kimi Raikkonen has qualified sixth for the last two Grands Prix – not a disaster by any means but it’s clearly causing problems for his championship ambitions.

At both the Hockenheimring and Hungaroring he found himself stuck behind slower traffic which compromised his race performance.

What’s Raikkonen’s problem and what can Ferrari do about it?

Although Massa had a couple of problems of his own in qualifying (sixth in Canada, ninth in Britain), Raikkonen’s two sixth places in the last two races are a cause of concern at Ferrari (see chart).

Here’s how Raikkonen analysed his problems after the Hungarian Grand Prix:

Every time something strange happened and we didn’t manage to find the best possible set up for the car. We tried to find a good compromise, but it didn’t help. We’ve got to solve that problem now for the upcoming race at Valencia.

The qualifying was the decisive moment also at Budapest, in a negative way. In my second try in Q3 I couldn’t keep the car on the track: that was my fault.

You can’t pretend to win the title if you’re always starting from the sixth position. You can even drive one second faster per lap than the one ahead of you, but if you start from behind you can’t use the pace you’ve got.

Could it be that Raikkonen is carrying too much fuel into qualifying and finding himself behind slower cars as a result? In the last two races he’s been among the heaviest:

German Grand Prix grid top eight

PositionDriverLap timeFirst pit stop
1Lewis Hamilton1’15.66618
2Felipe Massa1’15.86920
3Heikki Kovalainen1’16.14321
4Jarno Trulli1’16.19119
5Fernando Alonso1’16.38519
6Kimi Raikkonen1’16.38922
7Robert Kubica1’16.52118
8Mark Webber1’17.01423

Hungarian Grand Prix grid top eight

PositionDriverLap timeFirst pit stop
1Lewis Hamilton1’20.89919
2Heikki Kovalainen1’21.14021
3Felipe Massa1’21.19118
4Robert Kubica1’21.28118
5Timo Glock1’21.32620
6Kimi Raikkonen1’21.51622
7Fernando Alonso1’21.69822
8Mark Webber1’21.73218

Even if it’s not the cause of his problem perhaps a short-term fix could be to reduce the amount of fuel he takes into qualifying.

Assuming it means he is then able to out-qualifying the likes of Alonso, Trulli, Glock and Kubica they probably wouldn’t be able to cause him any problems in the race because his race lap times are excellent – he’s set the fastest lap in seven of the last eight rounds.

Perhaps Ferrari have underestimated how much Renault and Toyota have developed and are trying to take more fuel into qualifying than they can comfortably out-qualify the midfield cars with. With Raikkonen being the heaviest car in qualifying in the last two races it has affected him and not Massa. Therefore, could Ferrari swap their approach of the last two races and put Raikkonen on the lighter load at Valencia?

What else could it be? It doesn’t seem to be tyre related – different compounds were used at the Hungaroring compared to the Hockenheimring.

Whatever Raikkonen’s problem is, it doesn’t seem to be affecting Massa. Although Raikkonen has had some misfortune this year he knows that had it not been for Massa’s engine failure in Hungary Massa would be nine points ahead of him in the championship now.

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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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27 comments on “Kimi Raikkonen’s qualifying problems”

  1. Kimi has always been one to take more fuel into quali than other drivers. Even back in his Maclaren days they would often go around 3-5 laps longer than the guys in front.

    It’s a great tactic if you are just behind them, but when you’re stuck behind Renaults and Toyotas, you’re going to be well out of contention when the pit stops come.

    I don’t think Kimi’s problem lies with the amount of fuel he has though, he’s the fastest guy this year without doubt. He just needs to hook up a clean lap in Q3, something which he hasn’t been able to do in the last 2 races.

    Although, regardless of that, a quick fix could be to fuel him lighter in 2 and a bit weeks time.

  2. i’m not convinced it’s fuel. alonso and webber’s times in germany and hungary compare well and they have as much or more fuel. he might even be pushing too hard, filipe really looks smoother during quali.

    i’d love it if they made fuel loads available to spectators at some point, as i’m not sure that first pit stops are a completely accurate picture of fuel loads. we can see how much goes in during a pitstop, so why not?

  3. For an alternative angle, here’s Alan Henry in this week’s Autocar:

    I received an interesting insight into [Raikkonen’s] character from one McLaren insider who worked with the Finn during his time driving with the team. He said that within ten minutes of Kimi walking into the team garage on Friday morning you would know whether he was going to be inspired or if the whole weekend was going to be a waste of time.

  4. Unfortunately I can believe that.

  5. Kimi only stopped much later than Massa in Hungary, because he was able to save fuel while held up behind Alonso. This season, both Ferrari drivers have often stopped just one or two laps apart. In Hungar, Ferrari just realized he was always going to be slower no matter what amount of fuel he was carrying, with the other alternative being fueling him lighter than Massa

  6. Unfortunately, I can believe that as well (Post #3). Having said that, it could just be a disgruntled worker. He wasn’t Mr Happy at McLaren so maybe that has changed (or not).

    I don’t think it is fuel factor, although it’s a good hypothesis given the data. I think it is the car/driver hook up for the hot lap, of which Massa seems to do better at anyway. Recent upgrades to the car may not suit Kimi’s setup for qualifying, but I think in general we’ve just seen Kimi underperform in terms of race, and not just pace itself (taking race fastest laps out of it).

  7. Paul Sainsbury
    7th August 2008, 12:54

    It is so depressing that we have to speculate about fuel. Quali should be on equal fuel loads so we wouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense.

  8. Regarding post #3. I think that, that Mclaren worker might be the one who used to inform Kimi almost every other weekend: Sorry mate, we’ve gotta change your engine so you’ll be starting 10 positions down the grid!!

  9. The Alan Henry quote is an indicative one I fear Keith – Henry first published that anecdote in the 2006 Autocourse driver’s top ten review of Kimi’s year. I think that Raikonnen’s famous lack of emotion, which serves him so well on occasion, stems from a basic disinterestedness in the technicalities of F1. He wants to get into a car, drive it quickly, win and go home. Unfortunately, as Schumacher spent a decade and more teaching them all, if you want to be the best, that just doesn’t work. Kimi will always be a contender, but he will never dominate – perhaps in the way his talent would enable him to, should he apply it consistently.

  10. Good one Taimur!!

    Since none of us seem to be donning a red overall and siting in the Ferrari box on the race weekends, all we can do unfortuantely is speculate based on the limited data that is available to us.

    Some points that could be considered are:
    1. New enhancements not helping Kimi’s qualifying
    2. I dunno whether fuel loads are affecting him, coz I have a hazy memeory of him out-qualifying the likes of Juan Pablo on a heavier car. But that was long back on a Michellin shod McLaren. (Was the fuel load quali rule applicable back then? Ooh I hate it when I can’t remember things) So the heavy tactic might be a reason.
    3. May be he has fallen behind Massa in setting up the car? In the last 2 tests preceding the race he was happy and reasonably quick. But in the race weekends, he seemd so outta control.

    I believe the real reason could be a combination of the abovementioned, or most likely, it could be something that any of us have no clue about. Like say, he was worried about his wife’s horse riding competition??!!??

    I can see a long comment coming from a certain Evenstar…

  11. I’m Vietnamese, sao i can’t speak E very well, first,I am very happy that i could find a great blog like this……I have no comment about the qualify, but i think Kiimi not sucess in the qualify not by his car heavy but because his psychology not very well due to the effect of his recently race………

    i’m vietnamese, very happy that i could make friends with everybody…I’m a fan of Ferrari and Manchester United

  12. I suspect Ferrari’s way of doing things does not exactly gel with Kimi and this probably unsettles Kimi. After Michael Schumacher dominant reign at Ferrari (being ultra focused, prepared, meticulous, thorough, etc), I think it will be hard for anyone to fill his boots with them unless they exhibit the same traits.

  13. Bless you, Kimi at 11 above. Welcome to the site.

    You may well be right about Kimi’s mind, but don’t mention Man U to the majority of Brits around here, I’m sure :)

  14. I made some comments a few days ago,on another one of Keith’s posts that apply to this article about Kimi’s attitude.He is very fast but,like I said before and many of you are saying,Kimi is not submerged in the sport the way Michael was and never will be.He is a racer but,not a technical racer.Too bad really,who knows what he could accomplish.

    Welcome #11..( our new Vietnamese friend,not the Finn )

    Hey you Brits…Is being a Man U fan anything like being an Oasis fan?I have been to some rowdy Oasis concerts surrounded by footballers slamming down the Guinness…and I live in the States..(sorry,off topic Keith)

  15. I think George hit the nail on the head. All Kimi wants to do is show up, drive fast, win & go home.

    He simply doesn’t care – or at least gives the impression he doesn’t care – about anything else.

    If there are set up issues, then I just can’t see Kimi motivated to look into them.

  16. Hang on a moment here, isn’t Kimi at the all powerful ‘Ferrari’ red team? Surely nothing he can do is ever wrong! Nothing wrong with his set-ups, nothing wrong with his attitude. Its just all these other pesky cars getting in his way!
    If he is as good as everyone says he is, why isn’t he just driving round the Renaults, Red Bulls and Toyotas at every single race? Yes, he’s had fastest laps, but only at the end of the race when it didn’t count for much. He should have had that pace in Qualifying and at the start of the race!
    I think he knows his days are numbered at Ferrari and is doing what is contractually required as a support for Massa, and is looking forward to retirement, or possibly a new career somewhere else…. So much for him being ‘happier’ there than at McLaren at the beginning of the year!
    Oh and #14 Wesley – Ferrari, Man u, Oasis – join any bandwagen you like if its fashionable!

  17. Hey DG,

    Yes he is at the all powerful ‘Ferrari’ and he won the title with them in his first year. Id like to remind you that 2008 season is still running and hes still pretty much in contention.

  18. LOL@ Keith’s story in post #3. Maybe Ferrari should get that guy from McLaren too, in case they haven’t figured it out themself yet, to save some efforts.

    I think Kimi must have went to fuel saving mode, once he found himself stuck behind slower traffic(like Lewis did in his first stint of the last race, not that Massa is slow), so maybe Kimi is already 1 or 2 laps lighter than it appeared to be.

  19. I’m sure if Kimi shortfueled every race like Hamilton and Massa, he’d do better in qualifying.

  20. Guys,

    check this out:

    I think Kimi’s Q problems have more to do with his driving style than anything else. On the average circuit, a lap’s more worth of fuel will result in a penalty of approx. 2/10 sec. In most races, Kimi’s fuel-adjusted Q times are higher than that. I think his driving style is far better suited for the race than Q. As quick as he is, he has never been a great qualifier and has often made mistakes when it counted. Perhaps this explains why he will be in the WRC very soon.

    I think just about the only thing the reds can do is fuel him a bit lighter to make sure he starts no lower than 3rd in every race.

  21. The fact that Kimi likes an oversteery car like the Macca and Felipe likes an understeery car is interesting… and really really hurts him in qualy….

    All in all Kimi is just a free spirit… and when he’s on it he’s simply the greatest…

    When he isn’t he shrugs his shoulders and gets on with the job, never ever makes excuses and still gets the most points he can… and generally the fastest lap….

    Sounds pretty sensible to me….

    Not a bad way to live life…

    Think of all his problems this year… Oz, Magny, Canada, Silverstone and Monaco saw team errors/failures… and he’s still almost in the lead…

    Sounds OK to me…

    But then I’m biased…

  22. I think Kimi can blow any of the drivers away on race day in terms of pure speed. His main problem as has been pointed out here is getting a clean lap that will put him on the front row..he has acknowledged that he’s done mistakes in important parts of qualifying but at the same time he has a lot more fuel in his tank than the rest of his rivals.

    So a point of action would be to fuel him lighter, get a fast lap and to let him build a big enough gap before the first round of pitstops as he can do that. I do think he has been a bit unlucky this year (qualifying problems in Oz, damaged wing in Turkey, drive through penalty in Monaco, getting hit by Hamilton in Canada, exhaust problem in France, rubbish tyre strategy in Silverstone and the safety car putting him to 9th position after pitting and then having to overtake to get p6 in the end) and he has had some mediokre races but at the end of the day he is 5 points behind the leader, last year he was a further 20 points behind Hamilton. In 2007 he gave all the skeptics a lesson: Never write Kimi off. Time for a Kimi comeback.

  23. Regardless of all the statistics of Saturday qualifying, and the debate on Raikkonen’s fuel strategy, he has still managed to find himself second in the championship.
    Compare this to Massa, who without question has been outperforming Raikkonen in the last couple of races, that is the one vital statistic that matters.
    I can quite believe the accusations about Raikkonen’s personality away from the car. David Coulthard always said that it ‘amazed’ him how the likes of Mika Hakkinen AND Kimi Raikkonen, would turn up for a race and win without appearing to have made any effort.
    I have said before that there are plenty of opportunities for Raikkonen to turn things around this season, such as in Spa for example, where he always goes well.
    When Raikkonen does get it together, he is going to be a real threat to McLaren and Lewis Hamilton.

  24. @ Lady Snowcat, F1Freak and the limit:

    I agree

    p.s. sorry couldn’t really add more, you guys pretty much said it all

  25. Lady Snowcat,

    re: your post #21 … couldn’t have said it better myself. Right on !

    If Kimi can improve his Q position he will walk away w/ this year’s title as well.

  26. Well its all rather disapointing, but hopefully Ferrari And their drivers can pull it out the bag, so we can have a ferrari front row in Valencia

  27. maybe this is of some help

    Hamashima has also shed some light on the fight at Ferrari between Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen — claiming the Brazilian is superior when the car is perfect, but Raikkonen excels when the driver has to overcome some technical deficiencies

    “When the car conditions are very suitable for Felipe his abilities are 110%, but once the car is not so good his abilities are 90%,” he explained. “But Kimi could get the package performance at 100% even if the car condition is not so good.”


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