The 2007 F1 World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen, is truly among the most revered and enigmatic F1 drivers of all time. For more than a decade, he remained a dominant force in the sport, but\y upon rejoining Ferrari in 2014, all that form just disappeared out of the blue.
This abrupt dip in form was in turn giving strength to rumours regarding his impending retirement. But it came as a sigh of relief, especially for his fans, upon seeing the Flying Finn finally making strides towards regaining his old form.
His 2016 season has indeed made this fact clear that the Finn still has the raw speed and talent which has earned him plethora of followers through the years.
During 2014 and 2015, it was painful to see a driver, who had been on top of the world just a few months before in the Lotus, now languishing in midfield. Several reasons were attributed for this decline in form. The major among them was that the car was not suited to his driving style, which relied heavily on a responsive front end.
While other reasons such as declining motivation, his dislike of the new hybrid era and several others, were tipped by the media to be among several reasons for his lack of performance during those years.
Through this time, all we could do was wait and hope that something will indeed materialise in the near future and the Finn will be back to the form of before. There were rising fears that he was past his prime and his retirement was coming closer by the day. But, thankfully, all those fears finally disappeared this year, as the Finn seems to have rediscovered his form.
What are the reasons which behind Raikkonen’s recent resurgence in form:
Design of the car shifted towards driving style of Raikkonen
Out of all the possible reasons behind his resurgence, the most pivotal one can be attributed to the car. This year, unlike before, the Ferrari team concentrated their efforts in designing a car suited to the Finn. The fact that both Vettel and Raikkonen require strong front ends only further strengthened this decision.
Moreover, with Technical Director James Allison taking full control of the design of the car this year, it proved to be more favourable towards Raikkonen. Allison had earlier been behind the design of the Lotus cars, with which Raikkonen had performed strongly.
Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene, too, stated in an interview this year that keeping in view of Raikkonen’s struggles, the team were directed to keep the design of the car suited to his driving style as much as possible.
All these efforts towards redesigning the car definitely seem to have worked and it is the major reason why he has proven to be competitive this year as compared to the previous couple of seasons.
Favourable team atmosphere
The atmosphere within the team is largely supportive and peaceful, which is supposedly also helping the Finn in concentrating just on the driving. Be it the Team Principal, his teammate or the Technical Director, Raikkonen has close relations with all of them.
This kind of cohesion is necessary, given the immense physical strains involved in competing at the highest level of motorsport. Furthermore, turbulent relations outside the car will only contribute towards declining performances on track.
Out of all the drivers on the grid, if there is anyone with whom Raikkonen is closest to, it is perhaps Vettel. Thus, when the news came that from 2015 he will be partnered with him, it did come as a relief for many of his fans.
It is true that Vettel is supposedly the number one driver in the team, given the fact that these are his peak years, and further solidified by his status as four-time world champion. While Raikkonen, on the other hand, is approaching the end of his career and his world championship victory was almost a decade ago.
Teammates are usually the bitterest rivals of each other and this can create a particularly tense atmosphere, which at times can become too difficult for teams and drivers to handle; ask the guys at Mercedes!
In this respect, having a teammate that you have a cordial relationship has certainly helped the Finn in concentrating mostly on the driving rather focusing on politics or other negative aspects.
A stable personal life
Other than the cooperative atmosphere in terms of his official relations, Kimi seems to be at a content place in his personal life, too. Having recently become a father after the birth of his son Robin, it appears that it has made him a calmer and composed version of himself.
Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve had similar words to say about him, "I have become a Kimi fan. I'm very surprised by how much Kimi has improved, and how well he is currently driving.”
“Kimi seems to be happy, he speaks a lot with the press, he is highly motivated and clearly he is enjoying his driving. I think his happiness has come from his family life with his wife and son. It's like everything in Kimi's life is in balance."
His return has not been down to a single factor, but a lot of small things have collectively contributed towards the performance gains he has made this year.
His resurgence has been no less than a treat for his diehard fans, who were earlier losing hope due to his inconsistent form over the last couple of years. With the way this season has been progressing, hopes are high that we will get to see further performance gains from him.
But, perhaps the biggest wish of his every fan is to see the Flying Finn stand atop the podium at least once again to bring back golden memories of the past and, to capture that win would be a perfect farewell to the Finn’s glorious career.
Will that victory (victories) come? Only time will tell.