2012 F1 Driver Rankings #4: Kimi Raikkonen

2012 F1 season review

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Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Formula One was one of the most highly anticipated developments ahead of the 2012 season.

How would he fare at Lotus? Would he be back at his the best, as he was when hunting titles with McLaren and winning one with Ferrari? And could he sustain his appetite for competition throughout F1’s longest season yet?

Happily, the answers to all these questions were positive. As the season unfolded Raikkonen gave little cause to believe his comeback would be anything less than a success.

That might not have seemed likely when he was ejected from the first qualifying session of the year in Q1 after mistiming his final run. But he made patient progress in the race and showed he’d lost none of his racing verve by taking three places in a frantic final lap.

Beat team mate in qualifying11/20
Beat team mate in race11/13
Races finished20/20
Laps spent ahead of team mate625/856

Raikkonen got up to speed quickly with the tricky new generation of Pirelli tyres and only really got into trouble with them twice, in China and Monaco. Significantly, both those races came after he’d missed a significant amount of running on the first day of practice.

Even so China was the only race all year when he failed to appear in the points – impressive consistency which elevated him to third in the world championship. That he appears one place lower in these rankings is not intended as a criticism of him, more a consequence of the miserable fortune endured by one of his similarly impressive rivals.

Just four races into his comeback, Raikkonen was back on the podium. On this occasion failing to reach Q3 proved something of a bonus for him, as it gave him plenty of fresh tyres to attack the front runners with. This was arguably a win that got away – Raikkonen had one chance to pass Sebastian Vettel to win but admitted he picked the wrong side when zooming up behind the Red Bull.

This began a sequence of nine races in which he made six visits to the podium. He was reeling in leaders Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso at the end of the Spanish Grand Prix, managed his tyres well for another podium in Valencia, and climbed from tenth on the grid to inherit third when Vettel was penalised in Germany.

But a comeback victory proved elusive. He had the pace for it in Hungary but after emerging from the pack he ended the race on Lewis Hamilton’s tail. In Belgium he started third and finished there.

Raikkonen’s season faltered slightly as the final round of flyaway races began. In Singapore he missed Q3 again and Grosjean was called on to let him by during the race. He spun during qualifying in Japan and was pipped to fifth in the race by Hamilton.

But in Abu Dhabi he seized his opportunity to win, moving up to second at the start and claiming victory after Hamilton retired.

Was more than one win possible? The Lotus was fractionally quicker than the Ferrari and had Raikkonen qualified the car as well as Grosjean often did there were other races he could have won.

Although he qualified well at times there were times he came up short and other occasions when the car did. Such as at Silverstone where he qualified sixth despite a KERS glitch.

He ended the season with his 17th consecutive points score in Brazil, despite taking a costly detour during the race when he went off. It did, however, prevent him from completing every lap of the season.

Raikkonen delivered a comeback season worthy of his status as one of the six champions on the grid in 2012. He consistently got the most out of his car on race day, made few mistakes, and his firm-but-fair wheel-to-wheel racing with drivers like Michael Schumacher (Belgium, Brazil) and Jenson Button (America) was a joy to watch.

Kimi Raikkonen 2012 form guide

F1 Fanatic readers on Raikkonen

Here’s what F1 Fanatic readers thought of Kimi Raikkonen’s season:

He returned and it’s like nothing has changed to him. Always reliable, the most consistent driver of the grid, grabbed an astonishing win and point out why he should have won more than the single title he has.

Raikkonen is one of my favourite drivers and out of the current crop, he probably has been for the longest time bar Schumacher. Still, his comeback at Lotus, which wasn’t a great team in 2011, him being out of the sport for two years… I didn’t expect too much.

He has been utterly consistent, scored points in all but one race and made little driver errors. His win in Abu Dhabi was a gift from McLaren’s reliability problems, but well deserved.

Another year like this, and we’ll be talking about the Vettel/Alonso/Hamilton/Raikkonen era.
Nick (@npf1)

Raikkonen could teach Schumacher a lesson or two on how to make a comeback in style. He got on terms with the car and tyres in no time and was fighting for podiums and wins as early as Bahrain.

Raikkonen was consistent and fast on Sundays but seemed to lack a bit of that edge in qualifying. If he can find some consistency in qualifying pace, he would be back to 100% Raikkonen form as we have always seen him in. He has shown that given the right machinery, he still has a championship left in him.

Notes on how the rankings are produced

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are my personal view on how the drivers performed across the entire season. Drivers such as Jerome D’Ambrosio who only competed in a small part of the season are not included.

Each drivers’ performance in all of the race weekends are taken into account and summarised. For more detailed views of how they fared in each weekend refer to the notes produced for each Driver of the Weekend article and the driver form guides.

A selection of F1 Fanatic readers’ views appear alongside the rankings. The full rankings will be published in seven parts, with individual articles for the top five drivers, after which there will be a vote for Driver of the Year.

Over to you

What do you think of Kimi Raikkonen’s comeback year? Have your say in the comments.

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Images © Lotus F1 Team/LAT

Author information

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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38 comments on “2012 F1 Driver Rankings #4: Kimi Raikkonen”

  1. Fair, I guess. He had a good season all in all and with a more competitive car or a more risky strategy he could have been higher.

    1. I think there is very little to choose between the top four and has come down to counting mistakes, which they barely made.

    2. yea, on strategy department. Kinda bizzarre when the team often choose the wrong tyre compound for pit stop. and their 3-4 sec pit stop often failed them in performing undercut strategy….

  2. I believe that the top 3 drivers would have gotten (slightly) more out of the Lotus than Kimi did, but nevertheless his comeback was very impressive. his fourth place in this ranking is deserved.

    1. wish you could say the same when the top 3 out of the sport for two years and driving with a handicapped steering wheel that doesnt suit their driving style.

      Lotus cant fix it due to limited resources and Kimi had to adapt to it.

    2. @matthijs How can you possible know if someone in a Ferrari or Redbull, would have done better than Raikkonen?? Better means, beating Ferrari?? They had better cars, you know! Ok, so a short response for you will be, If Raikkonen would have been at Ferrari, he would won the championship. Why? Because he can. Not like others.

      1. kimi proved in 2003, with inferior car he can fight for title and ended up 2 points behind schumacher in the end.

      2. I start with “I believe”, meaning that it is an opinion. I don’t know it for sure. I am really glad Kimi returned, because I love him as a driver. But I just feel that guys like Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso just pulled 110% out of their car, where Kimi did ‘just ‘ 100%

  3. I can’t really disagree with any of your rankings so far!

    As has been mentioned; I think the top 4 are interchangeable depending on how good you think the car was and what classes as a good season, but there is no denying that all four have been exceptional all year in different ways, barely a mistake between them.

    Looking forward to seeing how you place the top 3. Incidentally mine would be 1. Alonso, 2. Hamilton, 3. Vettel, all seperated by a smidgeon!

  4. Can’t really argue with the ranking. I think he was the best of the rest. Truly shamed his teammate in races (11/13). Still some room for improvement in the qualifying department. Seemed a little rusty while combating wheel-to-wheel in the initial races, but thankfully that problem was well and truly gone by the end of season (just ask Schumi). Might have taken more wins given the car’s potential. But considering, he came of a 2 season gap, he has arrived in style. Now that he has got himself settled, can’t wait to see him mixing it up with the Alonso and Seb next season provided his car’s good enough. Well….if it’s bad than we can see him jostling with Lewis. Either way it’s gonna be a spell-binding 2014!

    1. I will say from the start, that I think Grosean is much maligned, but I’d like to point out that in the majority of the races that Grosean DNFed he was ahead of Raikkonen. Obviously finishing races and gaining points for the team and in the drivers championship is paramount, but we would be lying to ourselves if we claim that Raikkonen put up Masterclass compared to his teammate.

      By the fourth race of the season I was certain that RG would notch the first win at Renault. He almost did win, until scuttled by the Alternator issue that also plagued Vettel.

      1. Agreed @Nemesis, but don’t they say ‘To finish first, first you must finish’ and most of his DNFs (except Valencia, I can’t remember any other occassion) were of his own making. The kid’s got raw pace, but he needs to temper it. If he does that, he surely can give his more illustrious teammate a run for his money.

      2. Kimi suffer more mechanical trouble in qualifying than Romain

        Bahrain – team asked kimi to stay out of Q3.

        Canada – Hydraulic failure

        Malaysia – Gearbox issues

        in the end should be 12-7 by kimi – romain

        Most DNF not his fault?? You must be watching the other races.
        I like how kimi humiliate him like in bahrain from p11 and hungary from p5 with kers issues.
        and majority of the races Romain finished, he was behind Kimi.
        And yet you praise him for having raw pace, what about Kimi then???
        Even in valencia, Romain receive new updates while kimi had to wait until Hockenheim. And if kimi didnt yield despite having better start as Romain was forcing him off track, kimi would hv won easily. And if alternator didnt fail, Vet will win the race, and not romain.

        In 2nd half of the season, Romain is nowhere. People claim he was not on form, but prior to his ban in Spa quali, kimi outpace romain by 4 tenth.

        WIth power steering mroe to kimi liking in 2013, i can only see him getting better and better.

      3. Grosjean is nuts. You think that : “Oh, this is his first year, he is young…”, but if you look at his pre-F1 career, and if you see what accidents he produced there, you will agree with me. One time, he overtook on red flag, and he crashed into another. Or, one time, after he lost the front wing, and somebody wanted to overtake him, he tried to push him out, steering into him, but he finished into the wall. The guy is nuts. And don’t forget, Grosjean was a Pirelli test driver for the year before, so he knew better than everybody, how the 2012 tyres would be. If you think that he is fast in quali, then Raikkonen is better, or eqaul, look at the numbers.

        1. Only in quali, you can compare Grosjean performance, in race pace you only can assume, what if… This is ridiculos.

  5. I do wish people would stop saying Raikkonen made a “comeback” and comparing it to Schumacher’s. Raikkonen returned to formula 1 from rallying whilst Schumacher made a comeback from retirement. Their not even remotely close to being the same thing.

    Raikkonen 2012 season to me emasculates his career. Bucket fulls of potential yet somehow unfulfilled.

    1. Didn’t Schumacher race those motorcycles? And tested Ferrari and GP2 in 2009.

      If next year is as even as 2012, Lotus certainly need to sort out their pit stops. They were certainly the slowest among the front runners, Kimi usually lost a second or so in a pit stop – pair that with the horrible top speed of the car (see Spa or CotA) and you’re in some troubles.

    2. Driving a rally car is nothing like driving an F1 car, it probably meant his reflexes stayed sharp but his wheel to wheel racing ability could quite easily have vanished and took much longer than it did to reappear. Schumacher had a bigger disadvantage due to the fact there was a massive regulation change to deal with in the specifications of the cars when he came back, and also the lack of in season testing hurt him badly.

      Raikkonen also had a load of obstacles to overcome though, I mentioned the lack of wheel to wheel racing, but also completely new tyres to deal with which guys like Mark Webber, Button and Schumacher himself showed was no easy thing to work out, as well the return of refuelling, slightly different aero specs, KERS and DRS as well as having to compromise on the steering setup of his car.

      The tyres was probably the biggest thing and his poorer qualifying pace compared to Grosjean and how he was in his first career probably reflected that he couldn’t get them working ideally over a single lap.

    3. @pantherjag

      Bucket fulls of potential yet somehow unfulfilled

      He won a championship. This means fulfilled.

  6. Agree with his position.
    Reading it all I feel a little sad over Bahrain, Australia and China.
    Can’t wait for next year, hope the car is just as good as this year.

    1. as good as this year?? it had to be better. car was a dog under cooler condition, even worst on wet.

  7. I dont think lotus is better car than ferrari.

    Unlike ferrari lotus came in short when tyre allocation was hard and medium, cool track, wet races.

    Ferari was always there on races.

    1. worth mention that since summer break, the likes of sauber and force india were often faster than Lotus due to the failed intro of Passive DRS which stumble their own foot

  8. LoreMipsumdOtmElor
    13th December 2012, 12:46

    I think Kimi deserves the #3 spot behind Alonso and Hamilton.

  9. With power steering hopefully sorted for next year to his liking, and the team understand kimi better and build the car around him, kimi will be better in 2013.

  10. Kimi is the only F1 driver who could beat my favourite driver to victory or title and I still be very happy with such an outcome.

      1. Alonso what? My favourite driver? No. I root for Vettel but have a special place for Kimi in my heart:)

  11. I Love The Pope
    13th December 2012, 15:38

    “Its ok”

  12. Thanks for the mention Keith!

    As for him being placed behind Vettel, I think his qualifying performances are mainly responsible for that. I too feared a Schumacher situation in Melbourne, but while he improved, he never quite ‘got it’ over one lap. Let’s hope he does in 2013!

  13. Please don’t laugh, but I put Raikkonen number one on my list. For this I also take into account the fact that he hasn’t driven a Formula whatever car for the previous two years – it was without a doubt the best comeback to date. And in contrast to other drivers, he kept a low profile in the races and collected the points for the team quietly. I don’t think a driver needs to have peaks in his year, which is why I decided to rank him above Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton – though only just.

    1. I’m not laughing. You made a wise choice. Räikkönen was unbelievable this season, I think he was even better than in his first career.

      1. F1 is actually racing, not simply driving. If we were to choose the best racer for 2012, not the best driver, then we would have to use criteria that reflect in my opinion the essence of F1. Kimi and Lewis would win hands down. They are by far the best racers in F1. Kimi came back more mature and with improved racing and driving skills since his departure. He made some of the most incredible overtakes this year. I know that F1-Fanatic readers chose his pass on Sgcumacher in Brazil as the best, but the top one, in my opinion, and possibly one of the best in the history of F1,was the overtake in Germany against Schumacher. I really cannot think of many other drivers who could pull out the manouvre he did, going on the outside, cutting in sharply, almost to a ninety degre angle to the inside, take off like a rocket, get to the side of Schumi at the exit of the turn, steady the car and then simply take off. It looked as if he used the sling-shot effect, like sattellites that bounce off the gravitational pull of a planet and accelerate away from it. Simply marvellous.

  14. “That he appears one place lower in these rankings is not intended as a criticism of him, more a consequence of the miserable fortune endured by one of his similarly impressive rivals.” – so that is why Alonso is going to be nr1 ? :)

  15. @keithcollantine , we’re gonna need to go ahead and disagree on this one, I have some new data coming in, and we need all the attention we can get. So if you could just go ahead and check the numbers down there, that would be terrific, OK? The following text is from a discussion I had with an online buddy who’s a total Hamilton freak.

    “I wanted to back up my assertion that ‘Kimi was statistically the best racer this year.’ So I went and took a dive in the stats at http://www.cliptheapex.com and the results are interesting:

    Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Total
    Alo Overtakes 3 4 5 3 1 0 0 7 2 0 0 0 5 2 0 0 2 1 0 10 45
    Alo Result* +7 (+7) 0 +2 0 +5 -2 (+10) -1 (0) +1 DNF +7 +2 DNF +1 +3 +4 +4 +5 55
    Ham Overtakes 1 1 11 4 10 0 3 6 4 4 0 0 1 0 0 2 1 0 3 3 54
    Ham Result* -2 -2 +4 -6 +16 -2 (+1) -17 0 DNF (0) DNF (0) DNF +4 -7 -1 DNF (+1) DNF -11
    Rai Overtakes 3 1 2 5 0 1 1 6 3 5 0 3 3 0 2 2 1 0 4 6 48
    Rai Result* +10 +5 -10 +9 +1 -1 +4 +3 +1 +7 +3 0 +2 +6 +1 0 0 (+3) -2 -2 40

    *Numbers in parentheses denote a race win.

    “There were 1,136 passes for position after the 1st lap during this season. Fernando made 45, Hamilton 54 and Raikkonen 48. I believe they weren’t the most active passers. I did not go thru every driver’s stats but I believe midfielders with bad qualifying positions are at the top, drivers like Perez, Kobayashi, Massa and Ricciardo are at the top there.

    “Those on-track gains didn’t always result in better finishes for the drivers, Hamilton for example turned his 54 passes into a net loss of 11 places during the season (obviously, Mclaren’s pitlane ******* hurt him), Kimi gained 40 places and Fred (and Ferrari’s strategy) gained 55 race positions.

    “Lewis’ wins all came from the front row. Of his other 3 podium finishes, 2 of them came after starting from pole. He had 5 DNFs (3 resulting from contact, 2 car letdowns) and in 7 of his complete races he finished worse than he started.

    “Alonso won from pole once and starting from 8th or worse on the other two occasions. He had 13 podium finishes and only in one of them because of a loss of position. His worst finish is 9th in China, with no change from his qualifying. Of his 2 DNFs, one came from RoGro using his Ferrari as a ramp in Spa.

    “Kimi only lost from grid to sheets at China, Monaco, Austin and Interlagos. In China, he made 2 overtakes and was overtaken 12 times, all the 10 places he lost were on-track. At Monaco, he was passed by Rosberg for 8th place. In the USGP, again he lost all gains on-track, not because of pitstop “undercuts”, his score there 4-6. Finally, in Brazil his ratio was 6:10, but at the end he was only 2 places down from where he started. In Belgium, Korea and India he kept his qualifying spot until the end of the race. In 13 races he bettered his starting position, most notably at Australia (7th from 17th) and Bahrain (from 11th to 2nd).

    “So while you’re right that Hamilton is a great driver who’s constantly opening up opportunities by challenging other drivers, and that he’s constantly qualifying at the best places on the grid, he’s not that good at being passed, he’s sometimes too aggressive in defending, which results in losing unnecessary places. Sure, he often gets them back, but the numbers show that it hasn’t been often enough.

    “Kimi saw a lot of place trading, both giving and receiving passes. And he made the most of them. He yielded when he didn’t have the fastest car, but that didn’t translate into net losses from his driving.

    “And while it’s true that Alonso was involved in a lot of passing, he had a net gain of 9 places in races where he did not make an overtake, most notably at Austin, where he finished 3rd after starting 7th, without making a pass on anybody! Yes, Alonso is a great driver and a good racer, but his team’s protection and resources allow him to not risk too much on track.

    “If I may state race form in Boxing terms, the 2012 record for each is (describing “finish>start”-“same”-“start>finish”-“[DNF]”):

    Hamilton: 5-3-7-[5]
    Raikkonen: 13-3-4-[0]

    “Not only was Kimi more consistent than Alonso, he also was as effective as him, without having the advantage of a personal assistant instead of a teammate.

    Lewis just takes too many risks. That boy is a gifted driver, but he needs to better manage his races.”

  16. kimi should’ve been back at mclaren this year and not sergio imo :\

    1. yea, it seems only mclaren understood kimi well…….according to autosport latest issues, Lotus still hadn’t sorted out Kimi ‘s power steering issues.

  17. A brilliant season for Raikkonen, an absolute pleasure to watch and it’s just great to have him back! He kept his head down and got on with the job, his race craft did seem a little sketchy in the beginning (China with Vettel) but he never lacked pace. What’s worth remembering is that Lotus had major chassis problems during testing and missed an entire test pretty much so for the whole team to provide him with a competitive car is good for them and promising for next year.

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