Reading comments here and on other sites I’ve been surprised by the outpourings of dismay over Raikkonen’s departure from F1 and sympathy towards him.
But when there’s at least 11 seats on the grid for 2010 he could have taken, this sympathy seems misplaced.
How much will you miss Kimi Raikkonen in 2010?
- I'll stop watching F1 (21%)
- I'll miss him (52%)
- I'm not bothered (14%)
- I won't miss him (9%)
- I'm glad he's gone (4%)
Total Voters: 6,001
Raikkonen complains there is no top team able to take him on for next year. But plenty of former champions have served time in uncompetitive outfits before returning to the front of the grid. In F1 today where testing opportunities are scarce, it would have been the best way for him to stay ready for a ready to the sharp end of F1 in 2011.
For an example, look no further than the man who’s replacing him at Ferrari – Fernando Alonso. His battling drives for Renault these past two seasons are surely a large part of the reason why he’s been given Raikkonen’s job – a year earlier than Ferrari originally planned.
There’s also the small matter of whether Raikkonen still deserves a front-line ride. After winning the 2007 championship he was beaten by team mate Felipe Massa last year and over the first half of this season before Massa was injured.
He had a better end to the season but a lot easier to look good against Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella.
These are not unusual circumstances for an F1 driver to lose his seat. It’s a bit much for Raikkonen to expect the likes of McLaren and Mercedes to be salivating at the prospect of putting him in their cars when he’s only delivering the goods once a year at Spa.
Army of fans
Where I do have some pity for Raikkonen is that his love of motor racing and his great talent have put him in a position where he finds himself having to cope with public appearances and PR events – something he clearly abhors.
I saw him at the opening of the new Ferrari Store in London earlier this year and, as I wrote at the time, I felt sorry for him as he plainly did not want to be there. Prised from his private life to do his PR duty, he grimaced at his surroundings when the cameras weren’t on him (which was rare).
But you have to keep things in context. Is a bit of glad-handing really that much of a hardship when you’ve got an eight-figure salary and the best job in the world?
Last year I saw him at the Silverstone test, ducking out of the side of the Ferrari tent to avoid the fans waiting outside. Other drivers lingered, signing caps and photographs.
It made me reflect on how despite Raikkonen’s aversion to appearing in public he’s inspired a passionate allegiance from an army of fans.
Their loss is rallying’s gain, but I’m sure he’ll be happier in a much lower-profile championship where his PR responsibilities will no doubt be insignificant – at most.
I am disappointed it’s come to this. I suspect this sabbatical may turn out to be like the one Mika Hakkinen took at the end of 2001 and still hasn’t returned from. Some people think Raikkonen will be back in 2011 to drive for Red Bull. But surely that’s the last place he’ll find a safe haven from the horrors of having to shake hands with people?
It’s always sad to see a world champion quit the sport. But it’s especially sad to see one leave in this fashion, when he could still have achieved much more. I might not understand his fans’ point of view, but I think they deserved more from their man.
What do you think about Raikkonen’s retirement? Is F1 poorer without him? Did he deserve a drive with a top team? Have your say in the comments.