Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018

Symonds criticises Ferrari’s strategy for Raikkonen in Shanghai

2018 F1 season

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Ferrari’s strategy for Kimi Raikkonen in the Chinese Grand Prix was a poor call which showed their only priority is the drivers’ championship, according to Formula One’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds.

Raikkonen ran fourth early in the race but fell to sixth after Ferrari left him on a worn set of tyres in the hope he would delay race leader Valtteri Bottas, aiding team mate Sebastian Vettel.

Symonds criticised Ferrari’s approaching, saying “they need to decide how they’re going to go racing.”

“I think that the way they used Raikkonen in China was unfortunate – leaving him out for so long and trying to slow down other cars.

“And to be honest, it didn’t really work. By the time his rivals reached him, his tyres were shot and they could easily overtake, so it wasn’t a great strategic decision.

“I don’t think that’s the way to get a constructors’ championship,” added Symonds, who oversaw championship-winning efforts by Benetton and Renault during his F1 career. “They obviously feel that the drivers’ championship is more important, and they’ve made their decision as to where that will go.”

Symonds also believes Mercedes, who are leading the constructors’ championship, have been strategically weak.

“When you have a fast car and you’re controlling the race, the strategy comes to you,” he said. “But recently with Mercedes we’ve seen some… I won’t call them wrong, but I would say some imperfect strategy calls.

“I think that’s because there may have been imperfect calls before but with such a performance advantage you don’t really see them.”

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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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58 comments on “Symonds criticises Ferrari’s strategy for Raikkonen in Shanghai”

  1. Hmm where was he when Mercedes did it with their drivers… The one behind gets used like that every now and then, he knows that. Especially if you are basically 5th and at worst you’ll end up 6th.

      1. the number one driver degree (Vettel and Hamilton) and the number two driver degree (the Finns – this could be the name of a sitcom)

    1. I think it’s an almost comical stretch to compare what Ferrari did with Raikkonen to anything Mercedes or pretty much any other team has done to favour one driver (except maybe RB with Vettel) in the last 20+ years. Raikkonen has been a pawn for Ferrari since he arrived. Mind you, Raikkonen deserves it because he has been so much slower than his teammates, except ironically, this year. But we all remember how Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa were treated a various stages of their stints with Ferrari, being asked to move, breaking before the finish line to let Michael through, “Fernando is faster than you”, etc etc. If you’re a Ferrari fan I suppose you don’t mind, but as a non-fan, I find that approach repugnant. It’s ruined the careers of otherwise above-average drivers like Felipe, Rubens, and Raikkonen (who was brilliant with Lotus the year before joining Ferrari)

      1. @ajpennypacker

        In July 2009, Nelson Piquet, Jr. claimed Symonds asked him to deliberately crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to manufacture a situation which would assist team-mate Fernando Alonso to win the race.[2]

        The ING Renault F1 Team released a statement on 16 September 2009 stating that Symonds was no longer part of the team.[3] Symonds was subsequently suspended from F1 events for 5 years after expressing his “eternal regret and shame” to the FIA World Motor Sport Council.[4]

        1. Ok ok, I stand corrected. I suppose it placed that particular event in a separate category since it was so egregious and blatantly illegal at so many levels. But you are correct.

          1. I agree, it’s another category. I just had to post it because it involves Symonds.

        2. Shut up Pat Cheat Scamer

      2. It’s ruined the careers of otherwise above-average drivers like Felipe, Rubens, and Raikkonen (who was brilliant with Lotus the year before joining Ferrari)

        I agree that Ferrari’s tactics regarding the drivers are questionable, but this part is obviously an exaggeration. Let’s not forget that after MS’s accident in 1999, Irvine got full support in the WDC fight with Hakkinen, Salo and MS being just no.2s. So, it happened even to MS and the 1999 Ferrari was very close to McLaren and the way things looked until the accident, there were high chances he would have won that WDC too. Irvine failed. This is the way Ferrari works and they knew perfectly when accepted the seat. What’s supposed to be the part where Ferrari destroyed Barrichello’s carreer, he raced for some good years (one of) the fastest car on the grid?! At what team do you think Barrichello’s carreer would have been just as succesful? Same thing for Massa and even RAI, do you really think their situation would have been happier overall if it wasn’t for Ferrari? Just look where Massa ended after Ferrari and how things evolved, then RAI was saved from a team that retired from F1 and didn’t pay his salary. Problem is they underperformed too even for a no.2, that’s why RAI was sacked after 2009 and Massa after 2013. When ALO was fighting for podiums or places around the podium, not that few times MAS was messing around outside the points places. Same thing for RAI, quite a miracle he was kept after 2015.

        1. I agree I made it sound a bit dramatic. But my point or rather opinion, is that something really bad happens to a driver once they are labelled repeatedly as a #2 driver. I am not suggesting that Rubens, Felipe, Eddie were top 3 kind of talent. But they were promising, on the ascendance. But they demoralized, and denied some breakthroughs that one could speculate could have made a difference for them. More importantly, each of these drivers came out of Ferrari with their reputations significantly diminished.

        2. Irvine was never going to be allowed the WDC and to end the Ferrari WDC drought that they had pumped hundreds of millions toward MS to do. I seem to recall a key pit stop where they forgot to bring out one of his tires, as one example. Salo was not a replacement for no. 1 MS, he was another no.2.

          1. @robbie, I believe that you are thinking of the French GP that year, but that was because Irvine had unexpectedly dived into the pits to change tyres just as it begun raining, so the pit crew didn’t have the right tyres to hand (unless you are suggesting that the frantic arm waiving and shouting during that pit stop was supposed to be acting by the mechanics).

          2. Yeah, that’s what I said (or at least tried to say): that Salo and M.Schumacher had to play as no.2 to Irvine.

            Sorry, do not believe at all the theory that Ferrari throwed away the 1999 WDC on purpose… after a 20 years drought… just because the champ would have been Irvine and not Schumacher. Sounds too dumb to be true.

          3. @anon No, MS was not out with a broken leg yet at the French GP. It was the European race, the one before MS came back, begrudgingly from what the reports said at the time, and EI had pitted and the right rear tire guy had confusion over the tire choice. The stop took 28 seconds.

            I’ll reiterate my position. Max Mosley and Bernie moved MS away from the debacle that Benetton had become, and post-Senna set up a new chapter with a mega deal that saw MS and his crew go to Ferrari to end the WDC drought and be the next icon, with Senna gone. The deal included boot licking teammates for MS, who would exchange the prestige of being at Ferrari for selling out to solely support MS. These drivers would not normally have been good enough for Ferrari otherwise. They had contracts to not compete. There was no way they were ever going to let EI have the glory of ending the (by then) 20 year Ferrari WDC drought. They happily waited one more year for that.

          4. @robbie, in the case of the European GP, your interpretation goes against what all the contemporary reports of that race say happened.

            Irvine had instructed the team two laps before he came into the pits that he wanted to switch to intermediate tyres, but then Salo came into the pit lane requesting a front wing change; Salo, like Irvine, also initially asked for the team to change to intermediates, but then changed his mind as the rain began easing on that lap and asked the team to change back to slicks, slowing his stop down further.

            Meanwhile, Irvine was also reconsidering his decision on his in-lap and, pretty much as he was entering the pit lane, changed his mind and requested slicks whilst the pit crew were still trying to reorganise themselves after Salo’s stop. In context, it looks a lot more like, after Salo’s stop, the team were simply disorganised and thrown by Irvine suddenly changing his mind only moments before making his own pit stop.

            I also have to say that your interpretation runs strongly against what was reported in the press elsewhere, such as Montezemolo ordering the whole of Ferrari to return to base and then spending several hours angrily demanding to know what went wrong and restructuring the team in order to prevent that sort of incident happening again. It also seems to run counter to the suggestion that several senior members of Ferrari’s team, including Todt and Brawn, came extremely close to being fired over that incident.

            Overall, the attitude that seems to have prevailed in the wider European press at the time seemed to point more towards that of Ferrari trying their hardest to win the title that year, and the claims that Ferrari wanted to stop Irvine from winning seem to mainly come from the British press.

      3. Yes it’s very incomparable. They did it with Bottas and Hamilton while they were up front and also still in the beginning of the season. Whereas they did it with Raikkonen when it was a matter of him finishing the race 5th or 6th. And if he was lucky enough, he might have even benefitted from a VSC or SC and end up much higher too. Otherwise he was most definitely stuck around 5th or 6th anyway.

  2. Sadly Kimi has been turned into a scapegoat. China was probably the worst display of deliberate strategy mess up so far that team has produced for their golden boy.

  3. I suppose Symonds thinks asking Räikkönen to crash would’ve been a better strategy.

    (NB I’m joking)

    1. uhhh #burned

    2. Thank You! That’s what I think Every time he speaks.

      1. I agree, but let’s not make it into a cheap Ad Hominem argument, though: not to listen to anything he has to say simply because of a past mistake which might be irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Not irrelevant such as now, I might add, but it would convey the point better to say something like “I question the validity of such criticism from a man whose morals involve asking a F1 car to crash”.

        1. I stand by my statement.

        2. I think it’s okay to discount Symonds’ words — not only for what he did in Singapore, but in his role as an employee of Formula One, he should have some semblance of impartiality and keep his mouth shut.

    3. Good one, @strontium.
      And often the best jokes are based on reality.

      Formula One’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds

      Is he now working for FOM, or is he just on a panel?
      And if he is working for FOM, is it his role to criticise teams and their strategy?

      1. Seriously now, he is working for FOM or FIA? This guy was lucky he wasn’t banned for life and now he is part of the decision making?

      2. A year ago (March 2017) Sky Sports announced: “Sky Sports has added chief technical boss, Pat Symonds, to its Formula 1 commentary line-up ahead of the 2017 season.” In September 2017, announced: “Pat Symonds joins Formula 1’s 2021 regulations task force” (that’s Ross Braun’s committee if I’m not mistaken.)
        Keith doesn’t appear to mention “in what capacity” he quoted Symonds — if this was just as a Sky pundit, so be it. If it was as an FOM representative, then Liberty should probably have a word with him, given his forced absence from F1, and his obvious failure at Williams.

  4. Incredible how, even before the safety car, Ferrari managed to mess up a possible 1-3, to what would’ve been at best probably a 2-5, is amazing. They should’ve pitted Vettel right after Bottas, instead of waiting 2 laps, but after they had waited 2 laps, tbh leaving out Raikkonen was the smarter move as Vettel wasn’t gonna overtake Bottas normally, and Vettel gaining 7 points is better than Raikkonen losing 5 (from 3rd to 5th). It was unfair on Raikkonen, but was perhaps their least stupid call in the race.

    1. Raikkonen wasn’t finishing 3rd. He wasn’t even finishing 4th where he was before the pit stops, because he was slower than Hamilton. That’s why his strategy wouldn’t have even mattered much seeing as he was either finishing 5th, or 6th at worst. But leaving him out could benefit Vettel and it could also create an opportunity for Raikkonen if VSC/SC came out at the right time. But of course it’s easier for fans to say “reeeeee Ferrari don’t know strategy”, “reeeee Ferrari ruin Raikkonen’s race all the time” etc. You don’t have to use your brain for those ones either frankly and it suits their rivals just fine too.

  5. @hugh11 also note how Vettel ruined a possible 1-2 even before that, riskiing a 0-0 in the process with his ‘Singapore Sling’

  6. it really is an utter disgrace, that this lying cheat has anything to do in f1 whatsoever.

    1. @zad2 agreed. Alsohave a hard time with Alonso keeping Flavio as his manager. Not exactly a sign of regret

      1. Yes, I’m shocked that (1) Alonso still chose him and (2) that Flavio is allowed to be an F1 driver manager.

        1. (3) that the Singapore wins still counts

          1. That one I understand more because it was discovered a long time after the fact. It would have been so messy. It could have potentially given the championship to Massa.

          2. @ajpennypacker
            The win should not count. Re-arranging the championship points is one thing but to let the win stand is totally wrong. Fia should have asked alonso and renault to give back all the trophies and deduct the points. The championship standings should stay because it is so long ago. But the win should not count for alonso or renault.

            And symonds should not be allowed to be working in any kind of official capacity in fia. It is just morally totally corrupt. It is basically the same thing as putting a sportsman in charge of doping commission who got lifetime ban because he got caught using doping. It is plain wrong, period. Even if symonds confessed (after getting caught, of course) fia roles should never be possible to him.

          3. so basically Massa was robbed of a championship, but that’s ok

          4. I don’t think massa lost the title here btw, it was a mistake on the pit stop if I recall, no? Therefore, what makes you think it woudn’t have happened normally? He still had to stop.

            Point is, while alonso shouldn’t keep that win, massa’s problem is the fuel hose remained attached to his car which made him lose like 1 min, and even if alonso was disqualified he wouldn’t get back any points either.

            Even if the problem had happened without SC he still wouldn’t get any points given it’s hard to overtake there.

  7. I don’t think that’s the way to get a constructors’ championship

    Fixing a crash on purpose is a better way, I suppose…

  8. When both Red Bulls and Hamilton pitted it was already to late for Kimi. Ferrari reacted to late and that was also shown when Vettel came out behind Bottas. Kimi could have been pitted straight away to come out sixth and be with no advantage whatsoever compared to the cars ahead of him.

    OR they could keep him out just a tad longer, let him help Vettel, and pit for tyres way fresher than those ahead of him. With the potentially faster Ferrari underneath him that was most likely his best option to regain those places. Had a SC came out and nobody pitted he again would’ve been best placed.

    But no, it’s all bad and tactics from hell.

    It’s just how you want to see it I guess.

    That being said, the Mercedes is still easily the best car, and Ferrari will need all the points they can get behind the name Vettel as soon as possible.

    1. Exactly! It’s getting really dumb all the Ferrari with the bad strategy memes. Raikkonen fans are fueling it too (basically as a way of explaining why he’s always slower in races too and creating this narrative about how he’s mistreated etc).

  9. Not as bad as asking a driver to crash on purpose though, Pat, is it?

  10. I really hope that Kimi has had serious words with the team about this. Although I fear he is too relaxed these days to even mention something. It often seems he blindly follows strategy without having an opinion on it.

    It’s interesting that the talk of terrible Kimi strategies is just coming to light now. This has been going on routinely during his second stint at Ferrari, and there are countless examples of him recieving an even worse strategy than China. Germany 2014 springs to mind, but I know there are loads more.

    1. @willbryan

      I really hope that Kimi has had serious words with the team about this.

      That is supposed to accomplish what exactly? He’s the designated number two driver. If he complains, he either gets ignored or replaced. This is the life that Räikkönen chose.

  11. Does anyone else find it rather inappropriate for Formula One’s chief technical officer to commenting on, much less criticizing a team’s driver strategies (and Mercedes tire issues in another article)?

    1. I’m not sure I see your point. They do it all the time. They are entitled to their opinions. Some are more inflammatory than others, but I think it all adds color to the dull between grand prix.

    2. They are really weird nowadays. You’d think they’d be more objective towards their attitude to the teams and drivers. They are a governing body of sorts here. Instead they rank drivers based on their subjective opinions on their official website, or better yet they leave it to some British reporters and say they are expert opinions, then they have other highly subjective weird articles from British reporters being published on their official website. It’s all very weird for an official body.

    3. @partofthepuzzle Is he? When was he given that job? I thought he was a part time Sky pundit.

      1. He was hired by Liberty/FOM a few weeks ago. He’s working Ross Brawn.

  12. Ferrari doesn’t care about the constructor’s championship. They are putting all eggs on one car hoping they get a lucky break or two that gives them just enough momentum to win the drivers’ championship.

    1. Ferrari doesn’t care about the constructor’s championship.

      I think they DO care, @socksolid, but they probably think they have a better chance at a WDC than a WCC.

      I would have agreed with them all previous years. But this year RAI seems to have found that extra gear (or ‘a car more to his liking’)

      1. If they cared about constructors’ championship then they would not run kimi’s strategies like they do.

  13. When, if ever, was the last time Ferrari cared about the constructors championship? No one cares about that anyway, only those that have not won the drivers title.

    I don’t agree with their tactics but you cannot blame them… the constructors championship is just a bonus prize, what everyone wants is the drivers championship.

    1. @fer-no65
      Yep, I recall those wild celebrations in Brazil 2008… they were crowned constructor’s title that day but of course they stopped because they realised the drivers title had been lost.

      1. Yes, consolation prize, like in 1999, a reward for their better reliability and quite deserved considering they couldn’t do their best on the driver’s title with schumacher injured, also in 2006 they said: “fisichella couldn’t have done his job any better, it’s frustrating to lose the contructor’s title this way” due to him puncturing schumacher’s tyre in brazil, since they basically couldn’t win the driver’s title any more that’s what they were going for.

  14. It was much worse than what Mercedes did to Bottas on Spain last year.

    Bottas was third that day. Ricciardo was miles away. They could do whatever they want, third place was his, so it didn’t cost a thing for him to stay and delay Vettel for a few laps.

    Kimi was fourth, not that far from third and by keeping him out they left him to be at a lonely sixth.

    The Safety Car cut the gap but he still could not complete a single overtake. He gained 3 places on the Verstappen mistake cuz Hamilton had to take avoiding action.

    So even if he got to be third at the end of the day, there was no reason to be happy if they do this things to him and then tell him to wake up when the results don’t come.

  15. When did Pat Symonds become Formula One’s chief technical officer? Did I miss an email?

    1. A few weeks ago.

  16. FOM is the governing body (including the FIA of course) of the F1 *business* . Voicing that kind of critical opinion about individual teams that you are supposed to be treating equally is totally out of bounds and rather unprecedented, except from Bernie of course his conduct in these matter is hardly a thing to emulate ;-)!

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