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The ups and downs of Raikkonen’s 2007 F1 title triumph

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It took a very long time however Kimi Raikkonen has lastly received the world championship title that he so clearly deserves. And, after all, it got here on the expense of McLaren after his personal two close to misses with the British staff in 2003 and ’05.

This was a rare season for the Finn that started with an oh-so-easy victory in Australia that proved to be a false daybreak. It was adopted by a collection of irritating races that even led some to invest his future with the staff was unsure. But, as soon as every little thing clicked, Raikkonen was most of the time the person to beat, a place that was obscured by the headline-grabbing battle between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

He had numerous catching as much as do. It is laborious to imagine now that he was as a lot as 17 factors behind Hamilton on the finish of the Japanese Grand Prix, with solely 20 up for grabs over the ultimate two races. And some laps into that race, when he languished on the again after a disastrous technique gamble by the staff, he was gazing a title-losing 23-point deficit.

It is simple to miss how a lot is concerned when a frontrunning driver modifications groups. Raikkonen had, in any case, spent 5 full seasons at McLaren, and was used to the Woking staff’s programs and method of doing issues. Transferring over from Renault, the staff he’d grown up with, Alonso confronted comparable challenges.

However Raikkonen undoubtedly had the tougher job, for he was additionally filling the sneakers of Michael Schumacher. As well as, the departure of Ross Brawn meant he was becoming a member of a staff that was underneath severe stress to take care of its equilibrium, and had additionally misplaced the benefits conferred by its particular relationship with Bridgestone.

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Raikkonen was additionally up towards a team-mate who not solely had a yr’s head begin, however loved a particular relationship with the staff boss. It may all have gone horribly mistaken – prefer it did for Alonso – and the very fact it did not was a mirrored image of Raikkonen’s capability to give attention to what actually issues.

Alonso had a slight benefit over Raikkonen in that he had a day in a McLaren in December, which accelerated the getting-to-know-each-other course of. Kimi needed to wait till January till he was free to drive a pink automobile for the primary time.

There was a restricted quantity of testing earlier than Melbourne, and an amazing deal to be taught. And maybe trickiest of all was the transition from Michelin to Bridgestone, one thing that caught out many drivers.

“The Bridgestones had been like enjoying on a special subject,” says David Robertson, who co-managed Raikkonen with son Steve. “Kimi and Alonso struggled. Lewis [Hamilton] when he was on the Michelins [in his early McLaren testing] struggled like hell – he could not do something. He went to the Bridgestones, and it was ‘that is it!’, as a result of that is the enjoying subject he was used to being on. That is what all of us imagine, that is what Kimi believed.”

Raikkonen left the winter-headline grabbing to others, however when he acquired to Australia issues may hardly have gone any higher by way of making his mark with each the staff and the tifosi: pole place, victory and quickest lap. Michael who? However he was flattered by circumstances, not least the very fact team-mate Felipe Massa had an issue in qualifying and needed to battle by way of the sphere.

Issues acquired more durable in Malaysia, the place the automobile’s efficiency was compromised, however he took third and a few helpful factors. Massa’s early tour prompt that Raikkonen had already established himself as de facto staff chief.

“The Michelins had been fairly a bit completely different whenever you approached the nook and, so as to keep away from understeer, you had to make use of the tyres in fairly an aggressive method. With Bridgestone it is utterly the other so, if you wish to keep away from the understeer, you’ll want to be extra mild on turn-in” Luca Baldisserri

That notion modified abruptly in Bahrain, the place Massa scored a formidable win, and Raikkonen was a way behind in third. “Australia simply surprised us all, I feel,” says his Aussie engineer Chris Dyer. “It was simply such a simple weekend. And actually you sort of know that that is not going to final. We got here again right down to earth with a little bit of a thud in Malaysia, particularly with Kimi struggling there with the engine, so he was just about combating with one hand tied behind his again. After which Bahrain wasn’t wonderful.”

That weekend on the Sakhir circuit had put a detrimental give attention to Raikkonen, and it was evident that every one was not nicely.

“The issues began extra in qualifying, to be sincere,” says Ferrari engineering chief Luca Baldisserri, “as a result of he was not capable of put the lap time collectively. Even in Brazil he was nonetheless struggling a bit of bit. Then he had issues to grasp all our programs, to grasp the tyres. At that stage we weren’t incredible by way of begins, and we improved quite a bit.

“The Michelins had been fairly a bit completely different whenever you approached the nook and, so as to keep away from understeer, you had to make use of the tyres in fairly an aggressive method. With Bridgestone it is utterly the other so, if you wish to keep away from the understeer, you’ll want to be extra mild on turn-in. And that’s what he discovered. We did some tuning of the set-up, plus he adjusted his type.”

That course of was nonetheless being explored in Spain, the primary of a run of 4 races throughout which Raikkonen was to earn simply 10 factors. At Barcelona he suffered a failure after simply 9 laps, the primary retirement amongst any of the highest runners so far.

One other Massa win confirmed that the Brazilian was on the ascendancy. “That was a fairly unhealthy run,” says Dyer. “Spain was {an electrical} drawback – we’d have been second or third. We in all probability would not have overwhelmed Felipe there, however I am fairly positive it was a simple third, with a possible second.”

Having been annoyed by the unreliability at McLaren, Raikkonen was hardly impressed. Eager to get residence to Switzerland to look at the ice hockey world championship remaining on TV, he bailed out of the circuit early. The staff had let him go after all, nevertheless it created the mistaken impression at a foul time. Schumacher would by no means have achieved that, we noticed. Certainly, that very day Schuey left the paddock three hours after the race – and he hadn’t even been driving.

The previous world champion was an everyday presence at that stage of the season, and there is little doubt that Raikkonen was in all probability as confused as everybody else about his predecessor’s actual function. The Finn clearly bristled at naive questions on how a lot Michael was serving to him. In any case, he did not want any fatherly recommendation from Mika Hakkinen when he began at McLaren and, at that stage, he had only one yr’s F1 expertise behind him.

Early in Q2 in Monaco, Raikkonen made his costliest mistake of the season, clipping the Swimming Pool barrier with the entrance proper after the again had stepped out on him. A trackrod was damaged and a wishbone cracked, and he demonstrated his bravery to the staff by insisting he nonetheless needed to exit, and would take duty. He was overruled, and compelled to start out sixteenth. In a race of low attrition, he made laboured progressed as much as eighth.

“That was the error he made,” says Robertson. “Till that time he was proper there. I might say Monaco was the turning level, regardless of the error. He felt he’d conquered it.”

Dyer provides: “Monaco was an odd weekend, with an unforced error. He is been wanting fairly good as much as then, actually comfy all weekend, actually proud of the automobile. A small mistake, and also you pay the value.

“Clearly he was disenchanted. We’re all disenchanted after we make errors. We’re disenchanted when the automobile breaks down on him, we’re disenchanted after we do not give him fairly the best set-up, and he is disenchanted when he would not do the job.”

The tempo of the McLarens was such that Raikkonen would in all probability have been racing for third in Monaco and there was an identical efficiency deficit in Canada. This time Raikkonen edged out Massa in qualifying, however he had one other poor begin, and made life troublesome for himself by damaging his entrance wing on the Brazilian’s rear tyre. Later he picked up a few of Robert Kubica’s crash particles, and he was additionally delayed by having to attend behind his team-mate on the first stops underneath the security automobile. He finally completed fifth, after what was outwardly one other unconvincing efficiency. The staff felt in a different way.

“To be sincere we weren’t that unhealthy in Canada,” says Dyer. “We had a dreadful begin, after which we acquired screwed like everyone else by the security automobile, so it was by no means going to be wonderful. However the indicators by way of the race had been that issues weren’t as unhealthy as they regarded.”

Indianapolis per week later was to be even higher. It did not look too promising when Raikkonen made one more unhealthy begin and acquired caught behind Nick Heidfeld and Heikki Kovalainen however, within the late levels, he confirmed spectacular pace and set the quickest lap as he salvaged fourth, behind Massa.

“Canada and Indy weren’t good outcomes,” admits Dyer. “However we’d see indicators we had been making progress.”

“The actually wonderful thing about Kimi is he suffers for about one hour, after which it is all behind him. It is easy philosophy – and I could not do it – which is to say, ‘That is behind me now, I can not do something about it. Let’s go ahead'” David Robertson

Steve Robertson agrees the US race was important: “In all honesty, it actually clicked on the race at Indianapolis. I feel he discovered his toes there by way of a automobile he actually loved, and was extra to his liking. And from then on I do not assume anybody can query the truth that Kimi has been the strongest driver. You’ll be able to’t argue with that.”

However, after Indy, Raikkonen was 26 factors behind Hamilton, and at that stage there appeared to be little hope of stopping the McLaren steamroller. However then issues started to swing in his favour. At Magny-Cours he certified solely third, however he acquired forward of Hamilton in the beginning after which made the many of the pit technique to leapfrog poleman Massa. It was a crucial race in some ways, not least as a result of it featured him getting the higher hand on his annoyed team-mate.

“We struggled a bit of bit earlier within the yr with the begins,” says Dyer. “And, since Magny-Cours, Kimi’s begins have been spot-on. I do not assume he is misplaced a spot since then, and most of the time he is gained locations. The blokes have achieved a incredible job with the remainder of what’s required for the beginning.”

One other win seven days later at Silverstone prompt that Raikkonen is likely to be gaining sufficient momentum for a title problem, however Nurburgring was to vary that. Considerably, he took his first pole since Melbourne, however then the first-lap rain created a lottery. Raikkonen made his life troublesome by understeering out of the pit entry again onto the monitor, and needed to run an additional lap on dry tyres.

As soon as issues calmed down, he was destined for a helpful serving to of factors when he suffered a hydraulic glitch, at the exact same monitor the place retirements had price him two titles at McLaren. It was his second failure of the season – the one different DNF to that time among the many high 4 was Massa’s self-inflicted black flag at Montreal.

“It was actually gutting for me,” Dyer admits. “I might seen him lose two championships earlier than as a result of reliability, and it is all the time been one in every of our sturdy factors. I used to be not very blissful to assume that perhaps he was going to lose one other one right here to reliability.”

Robertson says the person himself was unfazed: “The actually wonderful thing about Kimi is he suffers for about one hour, after which it is all behind him. It is easy philosophy – and I could not do it – which is to say, ‘That is behind me now, I can not do something about it. Let’s go ahead’.”

The following three races featured some environment friendly points-gathering: an unexpectedly shut second to Hamilton in Hungary, one other second, to Massa, in Istanbul and a 3rd at Monza on a day when McLaren humbled Ferrari at residence.

Baldisserri thinks Raikkonen would have overwhelmed Hamilton in Hungary had he not misplaced a vital few seconds when he ran off the street: “He misplaced two seconds behind Hamilton that did not permit us to vary the technique within the pitstop, which I feel we may have achieved in a different way.”

Then got here Spa, the place Raikkonen had received the earlier two races for McLaren. He took his third (and remaining) pole of the season and put in a masterful efficiency that confirmed past all doubt he was on high of his recreation.

High 10: Kimi Raikkonen’s greatest F1 races ranked

A season is fought over 17 races, after all, however arguably it was Fuji that finally received Raikkonen the title. After three laps, it regarded like he was nicely out of the sport after the staff’s ill-advised (and, because it turned out, unlawful) resolution to start out on intermediate tyres.

“We took the choice that we took,” says Baldisserri. “Till the arithmetic put you out of the sport, our staff spirit is to strive, and it was the best method.”

Helped by the security automobile, however principally by a largely unsung virtuoso efficiency that humbled his struggling team-mate, Raikkonen fought again to 3rd place. He was nonetheless within the title image, however… 17 factors in two races?

The not possible dream grew to become a bit of extra seemingly in China, the place he hustled his well past the struggling Hamilton – after preserving his tyres in higher form – and logged an excellent moist/dry win. After which got here Brazil, the place there was just one goal: a win, with Massa driving shotgun. Extremely, all of the playing cards fell into place, and Massa performed his supporting function. With six wins to the 4 of every of the McLaren drivers, nobody can deny Raikkonen’s declare to the title.

“He did every little thing proper when everyone else was spouting off and saying this or that. He simply stored his head down, acquired on and delivered. That is why Ferrari acquired him, and I do know they’re thrilled that he managed to do it” David Robertson

“He is put in some incredible drives this yr,” smiles Dyer. “He hasn’t allow us to down, however we have let him down just a few instances. He is gone from energy to energy, the automobile’s been good, and he hasn’t actually made any errors within the final two thirds of the season. He is cool and he is quick and he simply will get on and does the job.”

Robertson provides: “He actually is a big – the best man has received this. He did every little thing proper when everyone else was spouting off and saying this or that. He simply stored his head down, acquired on and delivered. That is why Ferrari acquired him, and I do know they’re thrilled that he managed to do it.”

Baldisserri presents a captivating footnote to the season: “Michael had enter into the staff; he was loads nearer to the staff. Kimi has a totally completely different method, and he tends to simply accept what we give to him. It is much more difficult for us to grasp what he wants. With Michael it was a bit simpler. And Kimi drove an excellent automobile this yr. Michael confirmed that even with a automobile that was not so aggressive, he may win. With Kimi, I do not know but.”

Wt occurred subsequent?

Whereas Raikkonen’s abilities have by no means been questioned, it’s exceptional to notice since his F1 title-clinching Brazilian GP triumph in 2007, he has gone on to say an extra six grand prix victories, the identical complete he achieved throughout his title-winning yr.

Regardless of this, and excluding his two years out of F1 in 2010 and 2011, the Finn has by no means been distant from the sharp finish of the F1 grid till his second departure from Ferrari in 2018 to maneuver again to the Sauber-run Alfa Romeo squad.

Raikkonen continues to make F1 historical past by way of his longevity. After surpassing Rubens Barrichello’s report tally on the 2020 Eifel GP, the Finn made his 341st begin in final week’s washout Belgian GP and assuming the present TBC 21 November date is crammed will finish his profession on 351 race begins.

PLUS: Why the time is right for Raikkonen to hang up his F1 helmet

Whereas Raikkonen could have by no means hit the heights of 2007 since, his report stays excellent in F1 to cement his place as an all-time nice.

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Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41

Photograph by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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