Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Sepang, 2017

How can Raikkonen help Vettel? Five Japanese GP talking points

2017 Japanese Grand Prix

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With fives races left to go points are at a premium for the championship contenders. However Sebastian Vettel can count on more help from his team mate from now on.

Here are the key talking points for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Vettel must hit back

Salvaging fourth place from last on the grid in Malaysia was a relief for Vettel but the fact remains he’s lost points to Hamilton at every race since the summer break. If that doesn’t change this weekend Hamilton will be in the same position Nico Rosberg was after this race 12 months ago: He will be able to take the championship by finishing second behind his title rival in all the remaining races. Which, of course, is exactly what happened.

On a cooler track with fewer of the long, slow corners where the W08 struggled in Malaysia, Mercedes should be in better shape. Suzuka is more akin to Silverstone, where they were unstoppable, but it seems nothing can be taken for granted with this fickle car.

Vettel’s superb form at this track will make him a significant threat. The two title contenders haven’t faced each other in a race situation for a while, but this weekend promises to be a closer fight.

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Raikkonen becomes number two

The threshold has been passed. As of the last race Kimi Raikkonen is mathematically out of contention for the drivers’ championship.

As he explained earlier, this is the point at which he is now required to “help” his team mate.

At times Ferrari has appeared to tilt the playing field in Vettel’s favour, notably in Monaco and Hungary. But now they can fully exploit the potential of being a one-driver team. At a track like Suzuka where overtaking is difficult, Raikkonen could make himself very useful by running a different strategy to interfere with Hamilton’s race.

Can Hamilton avoid a breakdown?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2017
Hamilton’s Mercedes has hardly missed a beat
Valtteri Bottas had an engine let go in Spain. Kimi Raikkonen didn’t even start in Malaysia. And Vettel’s power unit kept him from taking part in qualifying at the same race.

Hamilton, meanwhile, hasn’t been forced out of a competitive session by a car problem all year. The worst he had was the faulty head rest at Baku, where he still finished but lost a likely 15 points.

Can he go all year without a breakdown? He hasn’t done so since the V6 hybrid turbo era began.

Home points for Honda?

This is Honda’s third home race since they returned to Formula One and still the project shows no sign of coming right. Their relationship with McLaren ends in a few weeks’ time before they embarked upon an arranged marriage of necessity with Toro Rosso.

A point on home ground would mean a lot. But is there any chance of it happening?

There have been signs of an upward trend. Both McLaren-Hondas started the last two races inside the top ten. Stoffel Vandoorne has scored consecutive seventh-place finishes which have propelled him ahead of Fernando Alonso in the constructors’ championship.

But Suzuka’s few long straights have brutally exposed the shortcomings of their engine on previous visits. Racing director Eric Boullier, long tired of phrasing polite euphemisms for his team’s lack of performance, admitted it “won’t be the easiest track” for McLaren-Honda.

‘Hands-off’ stewarding

The Malaysian Grand Prix wasn’t short of incidents but strikingly none of them attracted anything in the way of sanctions.

Twelve months ago Rosberg’s penalty for tangling with Raikkonen during the same race attracted some criticism. But at Sepang last time out we even saw one driver knock another into a spin yet avoid a sanction.

It’s another sign the stewards are adopting a more ‘hands-off’ approach this year.

Are you going to the Japanese Grand Prix?

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Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Japanese Grand Prix? Have your say below.

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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 “How can Raikkonen help Vettel? Five Japanese GP talking points”

  1. Gonna be hard for him to help if Hamilton’s a mile out in front.

    1. Just get a ‘puncture’, pit, come out just ahead of Hamilton and take him out? ;)

      Although that would be much too blatant… Maybe drop an ice cream on the racing line

    2. Stay within one pit stop then. Kimi CAN be within 25 seconds of Hamilton when its time for the first pit stops. Then, just go unnecessarily slow. Hamilton losing 5 seconds behind Kimi could be enough to help Vettel emerge in front of them.

      1. Yep, that is the kind of thing they could do @chrischrill – like they did in Austria already, only Kimi did not manage to hold up Bottas a lot there.

        1. Didn’t work in Spanish either though @bascb,@chrisschrill,so I am sceptical Kimi is still a good enough racer to properly pull that off, sadly.

          1. @chrischill, sorry

    3. Stop at the same time and just do nothing, so kimi ends up in front. Then drive very slowly in the pit lane.

      Is this legal?

      1. Didn’t Hamilton get a penalty for doing that sometime this year as he was having to queue behind his teammate during a SC @verstappen?

        1. @bosyber: Yes, but a Raikkonen penalty and a Hamilton loss of points is something Ferrari would take. Sportsmanlike? No. Does Ferrari care? Doubt it.

          1. Good point @chrischrill since Raikkonen isn’t in any race Ferrari care about, I guess they could let him gather a heap of penalties and reprimands, only restricted by the 12-points-on-your-license-and-you’re-sitting-out-a-race thing;’taking into account that points stay for a year, so they need to reserve a few to stay below 12, but since the one thing Kimi does well usually is stay clean, they have a lot of room. So maybe you are on to something @verstappen!

  2. By being wheeled out of the way, back into the garage? :)

  3. By giving his seat to Alonso. Ferrari have a much better car than they gave Alonso yet still lagging behind.

    1. +1 to that!

    2. Alonso gave his seat up, so why should Rai give it back…

      1. I was covering the hater’s theory that Ferrari ‘got rid of Alonso’ and don’t want him back. Looks like they could do with him anyway :)

    3. Yes. As a Ferrari fan, their driver pairing drives me nuts. This could’ve been one of those “championship decided way too early in the season” years in Alonso’s hands.

  4. Kimi may need to whack Hamilton’s car on the race track :)

  5. If Hamilton wins this weekend or gains 7 points or more on Vettel he can have it even easier than Rosberg and only needs to finish 3rd for the rest of the year.

  6. Kimi is still the Force to be reckoned with, never leave him out of equasion

    1. Kimi is a “has been driver”, waaaaaaay past his prime. This year’s performance just proves it. And he has the personality of a door knob. Biggest whiner on the grid. Why Ferrari keeps him? Who knows, but it is just one more poor SF decision, a team impacted by fear of failure. Keep Kimi and they will keep on failing to deliver.

      1. I can only think it is due to the merchandise he sells. He is massively popular worldwide and has been for years.

      2. Biggest whiner on the grid.

        @svianna There’s a handful of drivers in contention for that mantle. Personally I’d give it to Grosjean.

    2. @breza2734

      Kimi is still the Force to be reckoned with, never leave him out of equasion

      After he in reality already lost Ferrari both the drivers and constructors this is almost beyond ironic.

  7. Well Vettel has already given a hint how the second Ferrari can be used in an interview with the Krone newspaper. The link is here
    Using Google Translate, this is his quote: “It was clear what Mercedes was doing, they once again used Bottas as a kind of road block”.

  8. @BigJoe Than Alonso’s input was not that great i think. STOP thinking as if Alonso all that good cause he ain’t.

    1. He’s better than the teams he’s raced for though. All of them improved with him and went downhill without. He even ended up getting the better of Lewis in the later half of 2008 and most of 2010 in far lesser cars.

      1. Yeah well, I think Alonso would give his left arm for a career like Hamilton’s so…..

      2. Ferrari didn’t improve with Alonso. They had a poor year in 2009, but prior to that they were the best team on the grid for most of the preceding decade. 2010 was simply a return to form after a blip in ’09. Alonso put a massive strain on Ferrari, with the in-fighting intensifying each year until he left. Once he left, suddenly their performance got better year on year until this year, when they have been genuine title contenders all year. Without a few mistakes from Vettel, and a couple of strategy errors from the team, they’d still have a comfortable lead in the WDC.

        Make no mistake, though Alonso is a great driver, he’s also massively overrated. The Ferraris he drove weren’t bad cars, he just had the entire team behind him, and a team mate who not only sucked, but was also neglected by the team. Alonso is lucky to even have the two titles he has, considering in ’05 he only won because Kimi’s Mclaren broke down from ahead of him so many times, and in ’06 he only won because his team had been allowed to run with illegal ballast for half the season, and because of Schumacher’s bad luck with reliability.

        1. Why don’t you examine better the situation about 2005 and 2006? I’m a schumacher fan and consider him the best driver ever, but this shouldn’t change the perception of what happened in those years.

          In 2005, renault was more reliable but not as quick as mclaren, it was a choice, either you had the fast and fragile mclaren or you had the quite fast and reliable renaut, on balance renaut was better, but if mclaren had the same reliability as the renault and kept its own speed it’d have been a dominant car, so raikkonen would’ve walked the championship.

          In 2006, renault was better in the first 11 races, ferrari in the last ones (think 6) but by a bigger margin, overall they were pretty much balanced on pace, the fact schumacher lost to reliability is a myth, you tend to remember that cause he was unlucky in his last 2 races, I’m the first who is sorry about the failure and who says he would’ve deserved his 8th title and should’ve left winning the title, but the reality is that alonso lost 6 points due to engine at monza and 11 points due to the wheel problem in hungary, 11 cause it allowed schumacher to gain 1, so a total of 17 lost vs schumacher, while schumacher lost 12 at suzuka and 7 at interlagos, since I guess it’s pretty obvious without the fuel pump he’d have got pole and dominated the race, and that the puncture was caused by fisichella as he had to gain places back, so 5 points lost and 2 given to alonso since he should’ve got 3rd, for a total of 19 points through reliability for schumacher.

          Go look at the mistakes, schumacher lost 4 in australia with a crash in the race, 4 at instanbul due to a qualifying mistake that let him get behind massa, so had to wait during pit stop, losing position to alonso instead of ending 1 position ahead, then 4 in hungary since he overdefended vs heidfeld and again 4 in monaco since he’d have got 2nd without (as a schumacher fan I believe he didn’t do on purpose) the mistake in monaco qualifying and the consequent penalty, for a total of 16 points through mistakes vs alonso 0, why? My opinion is the age, schumacher was 37, a bit past his peak, alonso was 26, schumacher still had the speed but was more mistake prone than at his best.

          That’s what happened, not reliability, was certainly bad timed but if it hadn’t happened anything to schumacher in the last 2 races he’d have benefitted from much less points lost through reliability.

        2. Oh, however you’re right about mass damper, that’s what gave renault the biggest advantage for most of 2006, no mass dumper, or earlier ban of it = no title.

  9. Well he can give Vettels car back to him.

    *adjusts tin foil hat*

  10. He will be able to take the championship by finishing second behind his title rival in all the remaining races.

    @keithcollantine I don’t think that’s correct. According to the Points Calculator Hamilton will lose the championship by 1 point.

    1. 25 – 18 = 7
      7 x 4 = 28

      1. Japan, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Abu Dhabi – 5 races left, so 7 x 5 = 35, with Hamilton 34 points ahead

        1. Ah, just read the comment below, it was talking about after this race.

    2. The key phrase being “If that doesn’t change this weekend” in the article.

      Vettel has to outscore Hamilton in the next race, after which there will only be 4 races remaining. Not enough to overturn 34+ points if Hamilton finishes 2nd.

    3. Hamilton needs to outscore Vettel at least once. But if he does, he can finish 2nd in the other 4 races behind Vettel and still win the championship.

  11. The only Mercedes Kimi is getting close to is Bottas. Ive seen nothing from him this year that makes me think he will influence any race this year unfortunately.

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