What can be read into Raikkonen’s pace?

Alarm bells started ringing in the F1 community this week as Kimi Raikkonen set a searing pace in the new F2008. But just how worried should fans be about a Ferrari whitewash in 2008?

Kimi Raikkonen looked very impressive at Bahrain testing this week. Had he not been consistently a second faster than Massa and some two seconds faster than last year’s pole time, you might have been forgiven for dismissing the results as inconclusive pre-season form. But one can’t help but feel it is a different Kimi Raikkonen to the one that began the 2007 season. Worryingly still is that Ferrari have yet to implement a radical new aero package for the F2008. That said here are a few reasons why fans worrying about a repeat of 2004 should not despair. Well, not yet anyway.

Firstly there is the issue of testing itself. For anyone that isn’t a team member, predicting performance really does require a crystal ball. For every positive indicator of performance one can almost always dig up counter arguments. True, Raikkonen’s 1m30.415 flyer on Wednesday was considerably quicker than last year’s pole. But as some commentators have been quick to point out, comparing a test session with a race is somewhat superfluous given the differences in track temperature. In 2007 the teams were considerably slower at the April race than they were at the February test session. Indeed, compare testing with testing and Raikkonen’s 1m 30.415 this week was actually beaten by several other cars at the February/March test last year. But to counter the counter argument as it were, track temperatures at the February test last year were higher than the cooler 12/18ºC (air) and 14/28ºC (track) temperatures that Raikkonen had to contend with earlier in the week.

So fans should avoid reading too much into the furore that was made in the newspapers about Raikkonen’s pace. That is not to say that Ferrari are not super quick of course, but rather that it is difficult to make such a judgement on the time-sheet alone.

Leaving testing aside, I think there is a broader reason why a repeat of Ferrari’s dominance in the early millennium is unlikely. I will make a bold statement here and say that in the early 00’s Michael Schumacher was the quickest driver out there. There was simply no one to challenge him. True, the Ferrari was supreme but so was Adrian Newey’s Mclaren in 1998/9 and there was one driver out there who still found a way to mount a championship challenge. (It really annoys me when people ‘blame’ Schumacher for making the sport boring. People have short memories. If he hadn’t been around in 1998 and 1999, it would have been Mclaren and Mika Hakkinen making the sport boring.)

The era of one driver supremacy is long gone; Raikkonen and Alonso effectively put an end to it. And now with Hamilton, we have the mouth-watering prospect of three drivers – in which there is absolutely nothing to choose between in my view – battling it out in separate teams. Combine this with the loss of traction control, which should mix things up a bit and make driver errors more likely under pressure, and I think it will be a while before we see the same kind of Ferrari dominance that existed in the Schumacher era.

I wait to be proven wrong.

Christopher Hayes.

9 thoughts on “What can be read into Raikkonen’s pace?”

  1. Great article. I think another reason why comparing test times with last year’s pole is foolhardy is that when qualifying, the drivers might have had fuller tanks of fuel than in testing (where Raikkonen could have been running on fumes). Last season we saw instances where pole position was not actually the fastest time of the qualifying session, so really, comparing test times with pole position time is pretty meaningless!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Yes good point. Thats it isn’t it, we never really know just how much fuel they are running in testing as well as the state of their tyres.

    What worries me about Ferrari is that they have traditionally been ‘sand-baggers’. So if this is them holding back – and I’m not 100% sure they are – god knows what they will be like in full race trim.

  3. Raikkonen’s time was clocked at the race simulation, that means fuel load is more or less the same with that of a qualification run. It was not a short stint either, instead, a simulation of a full race. In this respect, Raikkonen’s time of 1.30 can be compared to Massa’s fastest lap time last year in Bahrain as being 1.34 and to Massa’s fastest Q2 time (which is run at the possible lowest fuel load thus enabling the cars to be quickest for all Q1, Q2, Q3 and race) as being 1.31. This is some other thing that must be considered also.

  4. In the newsgroup discussion rec.autos.sport.f1 which led to this article, an author has added some interesting comparisons between Ferrari and Mclaren. Yet more fuel for the Ferrari testing speculation.

    “Nothing much to add except that Ferrari looked good, but they were only running with Toyota. Toyota seemed to be about 1.6s per lap slower.

    When Toyota ran with McLaren at Jerez & Valencia they were about 1.3/1.4s slower than McLaren – over a shorter lap. That suggests that McLaren are probably about as quick as Ferrari, which is what appeared to be the case at the Spanish tracks last month – sometimes McLaren were quickest and sometimes Ferrari were.”

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