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Kimi's potential exit from Ferrari: of his own making?

Rumours of Daniel Ricciardo potentially replacing Raikkonen at the end of the season continue to persist. We discuss why.

Raikkonen (C) with teammate Vettel (L) and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene

Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, who has been with Red Bull Racing since 2014, is the subject of fervent speculation that Ferrari are considering taking him on. He would partner former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany. Four-time world champion Vettel began racing at the stables of the Prancing Horse this year and was Ricciardo’s teammate from 2014-2015. 

25-year-old Ricciardo is a known Ferrari fan, and there is talk of him replacing flying Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who is currently on his second stint with the team. Raikkonen was with Ferrari from 2007-2009 and left for a number of years to drive outside Formula One. On his return, he drove for Lotus prior to his return to Ferrari in 2014.

Raikkonen’s spot on the team currently seems to be on rather shaky ground; his results have been lacking since the beginning of 2014. Although Raikkonen’s only championship title came with the team in 2007, his return has not seemed to be as fruitful as he would like. 2014 was an abysmal season for the Finn, who won points at 9 out of the 19 races he drove that year, giving him a low 47% record for points.

2015 has been a significant improvement for Raikkonen, however. The Finn retired at the inaugural race of the season in Australia and suffered a crash with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso at the Grand Prix of Austria, which led to another race retirement for him, but he has finished every other race of the season with high points, with a lowest of a 6th position finish, at Monaco. 

Ferrari principal Maurizio Arrivabene, when asked earlier this year about Raikkonen’s contract, indicated that he ‘had not signed anything yet’ for the sole reason of exercising some form of ‘psychological pressure’ on the driver, but that he was otherwise satisfied with his performance. Nevertheless, Ferrari bosses have expressed to Raikkonen that he must “improve his performance” ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend, according to a BBC interview.

Raikkonen is known to be ‘difficult’ to deal with – he is often petulant on radio messages and loath to obey restrictive team rules, which is often construed as a refusal to toe team lines. For their part, Ferrari have, as recently as yesterday, said it is ‘far too early’ to take a decision on Raikkonen just yet. Team principal Arrivabene said in a BBC interview earlier this week that "there are many, many things to consider and now is too early to tell him something or to decide something.” 

Sergio Marchionne, president of the racing team, put it far more bluntly than Arrivabene did. "Kimi's future is in his own hands," he told reporters at a press conference. 

The Finn has also been publicly recorded lambasting his own team for errors during his races this year, which Arrivabene was said to be extremely displeased with. 

Although he is no doubt a prodigious talent, it appears he has run afoul of his team, whose directions he does not seem to want to follow. He also blamed turbo issues with his car for the crash in Austria, although Ferrari engineers and crew aver this was not the case, as similar facilities were available to teammate Vettel, who had no such issues and finished that race in 4th behind Felipe Massa. Raikkonen, meanwhile, had been shaky in Austria right from qualifying, beginning the race in 18th. 

While the team say there is no concrete decision yet, the fact that no contract has as yet been signed, Raikkonen’s own declining performances and his perceived petulance with the team (and perhaps the sport) indicate that his position is not as secure as he would like it to be.

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