Did Kimi Räikkönen really manage to get on terms with Seb Vettel last season?
Not if you look closely, argues BBC Sport F1’s Andrew Benson.
The graph shows Vettel’s qualifying gap to Räikkönen when they have competed in the same qualifying segment. Negative values are quicker; positive values show Vettel is slower than his team-mate
Let’s not get too carried away with Kimi Räikkönen outqualifying Sebastian Vettel eight times in the last ten races of 2016, and in each of the last five. After all, from those ten races, Räikkönen finished ahead in just two – and they were as a result of Vettel starting at the back in Singapore and crashing out in Malaysia.
The roots of Vettel’s relative drop-off lie in car behaviour and psychology. They sound separate, but are in fact related.
Vettel requires a particular kind of car to deliver his best – or his “tricks”, as Red Bull’s Helmut Marko used to describe them. He likes to rotate the car early into the corner, and get on the power early as well. Key to this is a secure rear end in which he can be confident. Last year’s Ferrari lacked this, but what it did have was a better front end than before – just what Räikkönen needs to be fast. Vettel fell into the same trap in 2014, his final year at Red Bull, against Daniel Ricciardo. He tried to make the car do things it would not do, overdrove and, as a result, made mistakes.
The pressure to do this, rather than accept its limitations and drive accordingly, came because of Ferrari’s slip in form, and rising tension within the team. Vettel, assuming the role of team leader, took this on and tried to make amends. It got him into trouble on the track, while off track he was admonished by his team for getting too involved in non-driving-related matters.