After just two race weekends the Formula One world is agog with some sort of Hamilton vs Vettel dementia. It’s every motorsport fan’s dream. The best drivers, the two best cars, a season-long battle, this is the ticket to the hall of fame for both drivers. A true rivalry. Sorry Nico.
And sorry Valtteri. Oh and sorry Kimi.
In all fairness, it is good for the sport. You can set your watch to Hamilton/Vettel, firstly and most importantly in terms of quality. Secondly, as a rivalry, once all the niceties are dispensed with. Remember Rosberg and Hamilton’s playful post Bahrain joshing? It didn’t take long for intense loathing to replace ‘respect’. It won’t take long this year either.
So there it is. The Drivers Championship is being fought over by Lewis and Seb, and the Constructors’ Championship will go to Ferrari or Mercedes. It’s that simple. Just don’t tell the forgotten Finns.
From what we’ve seen in both Albert Park and Shanghai, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas may have already conceded too much ground to challenge their much vaunted team-mates. There’s the racing, the perception, and the psychology. In all of these facets, these lads are a distant concern in Vettel and Hamilton’s mirrors.
So to what end can either effect the outcome of this season? Let’s presume the previous assertion is right, that neither Kimi or Valtteri are at a stage where they can challenge and overcome their respective teammates. What can they do in the absence of that most fundamental objective? They can decide the fate of both of this years’ Championships actually.
It must be remembered that they both have a fantastic car. They’re the class of the field. On any given day for Bottas and Raikkonen, given the correct disposition is there and they stuff their team-mates, the win is on. One wonders why nobody expects them to challenge for the title. It’s true, nobody is talking up the chances of either Finn featuring in the ultimate Championship shake-down. I include myself in that category.
Valtteri Bottas must be a bit disoriented. He’s spent his first four years in the formula devouring his team rivals. He was Williams’ Messiah. The heady days of promise and potential. One unexpected retirement later and the world is demanding answers on his perceived capability. He’s performed well. No better, no worse. Solid in Melbourne, slightly soiled in Shanghai.
It’s fair to say he’s Mercedes’ ace in the hole here. He probably won’t disturb Hamilton’s run at Vettel, in not doing so, maybe Toto Wolff can look forward to a year free of well publicised ‘clear the air’ meetings. If he can avoid dire mistakes such as his safety car spin on lap seven of the Chinese Grand Prix, Bottas is likely to hold on to everything he wants that isn’t what Hamilton wants. Onwards and mildly upwards for this particular Finn then.
The Other Finn
The former World Champion Finn. He’s got the pedigree. He’s got the car. And he’s got the mentality. The popular line of the Kimi-delusion is that the man is implacably consistent and psychologically bullet proof. History would suggest otherwise. Kimi Raikkonen has always blown hot and cold. His defence of his 2007 title ended in acrimony and retirement from the sport. His much-lauded performances at Lotus were, in fact, blemished by a woeful fall-off in performance in his final season.
His relationship with both Ferrari in ’08 and Lotus in ’13 soured badly. It must be said, it seems Lotus had omitted to pay him his salary, which gives justification to a certain level of antipathy. The point still stands though. He’s not as mentally assured as is popularly believed.
Raikkonen has been unable to extract a modicum of the performance that both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have wrung from the last four Ferraris. The ‘Ice-Man’ has coolly lost to his teammate four years in a row. The major take home from this decline is the following. Ferrari won’t win the Constructors’ Championship this year. It’s also very possible that Sebastian Vettel won’t win the Drivers’ World Championship this year as Kimi may not take sufficient points off Lewis Hamilton.
This is a scenario not likely to be tolerated by Ferrari. The cracks appeared to surface in China. The beginning of the end for this talented and deceptively complicated driver may be finally nigh.