NOT ALL SMILES AT FER­RARI

Raikko­nen un­happy af­ter team or­ders favour Vet­tel

New Straits Times - - Sport -

EVEN by his stan­dards, Kimi Raikko­nen was stony-faced af­ter Sun­day’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Fer­rari driver rarely says much, yet the qui­etest man in For­mula One felt the need to speak up af­ter be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of what seemed like clear team or­ders fa­vor­ing his team­mate Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

Vet­tel won the race, while Raikko­nen fin­ished sec­ond af­ter se­cur­ing his first pole po­si­tion in nine years.

“It doesn’t feel aw­ful good,” Raikko­nen said.

The in­ci­dent he was un­happy about was be­ing asked to pit five laps ear­lier than Vet­tel, who took ad­van­tage of a much more fa­vor­able strat­egy. It al­lowed Vet­tel to stay out longer and pick up speed with no traf­fic in front of him and then, with his ex­tra speed gained, come out of the pits ahead of Raikko­nen and cruise to a 45th ca­reer vic­tory.

Al­though Vet­tel de­nied it was a pre-ar­ranged team plan, Raikko­nen wasn’t con­vinced.

“I got the bad end of the story to­day,” said Raikko­nen, whose last win was the sea­son-open­ing Aus­tralian GP in 2013. “It’s still sec­ond place but it doesn’t count a lot in my books.”

While Vet­tel spoke en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in the post-race news con­fer­ence, Raikko­nen seemed in a daze.

The Fin­nish driver ei­ther stared ahead or straight down at his feet, only rais­ing his head to an­swer sev­eral ques­tions aimed at get­ting him to say he’d been hin­dered by his own team.

“We can al­ways say ‘If ’ as much as we want but it doesn’t change things,” Raikko­nen said, shrug­ging his shoul­ders. “I have no idea. Ob­vi­ously they have rea­sons for what­ever they do.”

Raikko­nen’s dry hu­mor can be pierc­ing when the mood takes him. Al­though he stopped short of di­rectly crit­i­ciz­ing Fer­rari, “The Ice Man” clearly had a point to make.

“Ob­vi­ously I can stop the car if I want,” he joked, ask­ing if he could have re­fused the in­struc­tion to pit ear­lier than Vet­tel even though he was lead­ing the race.

“But if you don’t be­lieve what you have been told and how it will work, it will be­come very com­pli­cated at some point,” Raikko­nen said. “For my­self it could have been bet­ter. We’ve just fin­ished the race and who knows? There’s some rea­son for ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in life.”

That he is mak­ing such cryptic com­ments just six races into the 20-race sea­son may not bode well for Fer­rari as it tries to end three straight years of to­tal Mercedes dom­i­na­tion.

The Pranc­ing Horse team is 17 points clear of Mercedes in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship and Vet­tel leads Mercedes driver Lewis Hamil­ton by 25.

With so long to go, the last thing Fer­rari needs is Raikko­nen feel­ing let down.

“We get along well and I can un­der­stand Kimi’s not to­tally happy to­day. I can un­der­stand why he’s up­set,” Vet­tel said. “Ob­vi­ously it’s a bad sur­prise when some­body comes out ahead. I would feel 100 per cent the same. But there were no team or­ders.”

Oth­ers thought there clearly had been.

Three-time F1 cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton, who was em­broiled in sev­eral dif­fi­cult mo­ments with his for­mer Mercedes team­mate Nico Ros­berg in the last three years, is cer­tain Fer­rari has made Vet­tel their pri­or­ity.

“It’s clear to me that Fer­rari have cho­sen their No 1 driver so they will be push­ing ev­ery­thing to make sure Se­bas­tian will max­i­mize all of his week­ends,” Hamil­ton said. “It’s very hard for the lead­ing car (Raikko­nen) to get jumped by the sec­ond car (Vet­tel) un­less the team de­cides to fa­vor the other car (Vet­tel).”

Even Ros­berg, who has re­tired from F1 and was con­duct­ing the in­ter­views im­me­di­ately af­ter the race, of­fered his sym­pa­thy.

“I know how it feels,” Ros­berg said to Raikko­nen. “It’s not a good feel­ing.”

Raikko­nen has two weeks to ei­ther stew on his mis­for­tune or put it be­hind him at the Cana­dian GP in Mon­treal. Reuters

AFP PIC

Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel (right) with team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen on the podium at the Monaco Grand Prix on Mon­day.

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