Kimi Raikkonen is in the midst of his worst ever season in Formula One. At the age of 34 it would be easy for the Finn to give it all up and retire. Why would he want to further tarnish his legacy and reputation by fighting for 12th place? But it is for those exact reasons that he must continue next year, find his hunger and prove to us and him, that he is one of the modern greats.
Formula One is at a stage it finds itself at each decade. A generation of drivers are getting older and maybe slower as father time rises his ugly head. The current 30 something’s that are edging towards the end will be fondly remembered but ultimately they haven’t quite managed to hit the heights that were expected.
The list of names is quite illustrious: Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Mark Webber, Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld. These were the seven that were once seen as the next generation.
Alonso, his legendary status assured, will not give in until he has achieved his third world title. He, by far, is the most successful of that generation. The generation that was supposed to take on Schumacher at his pomp and conquer him. Only Alonso really managed it.
Of the others; Mark Webber was fast but not consistent enough to become champion; injury, luck and mental bullying have worn down Felipe Massa, while Juan Pablo Montoya gave up and Nick Heidfeld failed to live up to his expectations.
Jenson Button did win the championship in 2009, but he isn’t in the same class as Alonso, or even Raikkonen, behind a wheel of a car. Natural speed counts for a lot in F1 and Button has made full use out of his limited amount. But he won’t be considered ‘a great’.
And then there is Raikkonen. Kimi Raikkonen: the enigmatic, care-free, natural, temperamental, fast, inconsistent, moody Kimi Raikkonen. He, more than the others, embodies the romance of Formula One. Science can wait, it’s about touch, feel and ability. He can be blistering fast, painfully slow and everything in between. He is the modern day James Hunt.
These two years at Ferrari will define Raikkonen’s legacy. Will he be a driver who failed to fully utilise his talent, or can he show us how good he is against the relentless Alonso? Naturally, they are as fast as each other. But Alonso seems to have some extra determination and heart. The Raikkonen that came back to F1 in 2012 was different, more resilient somehow. This season, something has taken its toll.
The 2014 Ferrari is a dog of a car and Raikkonen is struggling to make it work. But Alonso has got five times as many points. The gap between them should never be that big despite the problems Kimi is suffering from.
Rumours have already started to do the rounds that the 2007 champion may not be retained next year. Jules Bianchi, the Ferrari driver on loan at Marussia, impressed at the Silverstone test and is a possible replacement. Kimi, once again, seems to be fighting for his Ferrari future but reading between the lines he doesn’t look too upset at the prospect of being booted out again.
When it was announced he would team up with Alonso, mouths salivated at the prospect. But Raikkonen has disappointed so far as the mediocre Ferrari has taken away his mojo.
Next year he must come back. He must make the Ferrari suit him and he must rediscover his appetite for a battle. Raikkonen v Alonso has been a simmering rivalry in F1. 2005 and 2007 were great years. 2015 could be again. To cement himself as the legend that he almost is, he can’t disappear into obscurity again.
A return to his form of 2012 and 2013, and he could show that he is the best of that generation. His career doesn’t deserve to peter out, and we don’t want to see that happen.