Kimi Raikkonen’s seat at Lotus might not be secure, according to 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
Villeneuve, whilst attending last weekend’s Canadian grand prix at the Montreal circuit named after his legendary father, described Lotus’ black and gold E20 car as “amazing”. The French Canadian suggested that with a top driver at the wheel, the Enstone based team might even be leading the world championship.
But what about Raikkonen? As the 2007 world champion who this season has made a widely-hailed F1 comeback, isn’t the laconic Finn a truly ‘top driver’? Not according to Villeneuve.
Indeed, whilst the 32-year-old has been on the podium twice so far in 2012 and is equal fifth in the drivers’ standings, Raikkonen has been regularly outqualified by his newcomer teammate Romain Grosjean this season.
“That he is usually behind Grosjean in pure performance makes me think he (Raikkonen) could be dropped,” Villeneuve is quoted in the latest edition of France’s Auto Hebdo.
Finnish commentator Mika Salo acknowledged Raikkonen’s recent struggles, particularly the poor performances in Monaco and Canada. At the same time, Frenchman Grosjean almost won in Montreal last Sunday.
“But this was just one good event for him,” former Sauber and Toyota driver Salo told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.
Nonetheless, there are rumblings in the F1 paddock that not all is well in the relationship between Raikkonen and Lotus. A big sticking point is the saga about the E20’s steering system.
“Now, it’s like with a child,” an unnamed team member is quoted by the German-language Speed Week. “We’ve laid down six lollipops and he can choose one. There won’t be a seventh version of the steering for him,” he insisted.
Salo acknowledged: “Kimi has retained his natural ability to drive a car, but he and the team definitely haven’t come to terms about what he needs. But as for Jacques Villeneuve, I doubt he has even spoken a single word to Kimi about what the problem really is. He is a complete outsider,” Salo insisted.
“We can all have opinions, but the truth is very different to what Villeneuve said. “I still think Kimi will win a race this season when the weekend is spot on.
“You can see that the relationship between Kimi and the team is really good. Although there are problems, there is still a good atmosphere. Some in the media allege that they are breaking up, but the real situation is quite the opposite. The team has full respect for Kimi, and Kimi respects the team,” Salo insisted.