Häkkinen: Criticism of Ferrari over Kimi Raikkonen

Mika Häkkinen, former F1 driver for McLaren and 2 time world champion, gives his feelings toward the 2018 season thus far, but also of how Ferrari should’ve won with their ‘no.2’ driver by now.

The 1998 and 1999 world Champion has plenty to say on Daniel Ricciardo in his column for Unibet:

“Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in the Chinese Grand Prix showed just how competitive Formula One is this season, and once again demonstrated the particular strengths of the Australian driver. Grand Prix drivers often have different qualities, strengths and weaknesses, and in Ricciardo’s case it is his ability to overtake that really marks him out.

Overtaking is all about confidence; in yourself, your car and the guy in front of you. You have a very brief moment to make the decision, and while you know your own ability and your car’s performance, it is also important to know your competitor, how he drives, and how his car is working.

I did a few good overtaking manoeuvres in my time in Formula One, but a driver like Ricciardo manages to do it consistently all the time. It’s impressive to watch. When I was a young guy I did a deal with a friend of mine, who had a different and more powerful race car than me, to simply practice overtaking together. You have to practice what kind of attack you are going to make, and then do it with confidence. Get it wrong and you can easily make a bad mistake, such as happened on Sunday when Max Verstappen collided with Sebastian Vettel; the confidence and timing were not there.

It was great to see Valtteri Bottas score a strong second place in China. After a mini-catastrophe in Australia he has really settled into a strong rhythm, outqualifying team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the last two races and also finishing ahead of him. Valtteri led in Shanghai for 18 laps, but there was nothing he could do to defend the lead from Ricciardo who was running a two-stop strategy and therefore on newer, softer, tyres at the end of the race. He did what was necessary, including avoiding a near-collision with Ricciardo, and second place was probably as good as Mercedes could have expected.

Kimi Raikkonen had another strong weekend in China, and it looks very much that the Ferrari car and tyres in 2018 really suit his driving style. Like Valtteri, Kimi prefers a car to have a good front end; by which I mean a car that really turns into corners positively rather than understeering. When he has a car that suits his style, Kimi naturally feels more comfortable and therefore able to maximise the performance. He can attack in a very positive way, and then the lap times come down and the results start to come. He is pushing Vettel hard, and if the Ferrari strategy had been handled a little differently I think he could have won a race already this year.

The really big picture after Sunday’s race is that Formula One in 2018 is genuinely exciting. Some people have been saying for the last few years that the sport has become a little boring and predictable, but you cannot say that now. Ferrari won the first two races, Red Bull Racing won in Shanghai, and Mercedes-Benz has yet to win a race; it is all quite uncertain, which is great.

From my perspective there are two reasons Formula One is delivering a better spectacle. The first is the Pirelli tyres, as there is a wider choice of tyres and overall the compounds available are softer than before. This creates a narrower window of performance on each tyre and it looks like Mercedes have suffered. They have had one or two struggles before, but this year it is much more noticeable, and in the meantime both Ferrari and Red Bull have benefitted.

The second reason for the shift in balance within the sport is that some key regulations have stayed the same and, over time, the top teams have become more equal in terms of performance. Mercedes-Benz did their homework really well four years ago whenever the hybrid-engine regulations were introduced, and they had a big lead. The regulations also really limited both development and testing, so it has taken some time for the competition to catch up. It looks like we now have three teams capable of winning Grands Prix on a consistent basis, which is fantastic news.

I personally do not think that Ferrari has suddenly made a big step forward, or Mercedes-Benz a big step backwards. Formula One is so complex that the results reflect the work of hundreds of engineers in each team, and therefore each solution – or problem – is the result of many different people inputting lots of different ideas.

Against this complicated background, I would not expect Mercedes to return to a position of dominance very easily. We are ‘game on’ for more unexpected results in the races ahead.”

 

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