Why Raikkonen Does Not Belong at Red Bull

The reason is simple, really, and the Red Bull/Raikkonen scenario is very unlikely to happen. However, such is the way with F1, nothing is quelling rumors to the contrary.

The simple reason I mentioned is politics. If there is one team these days that epitomizes the strained politicized atmosphere (other than Ferrari, of course), it is Red Bull. The controversy in Malaysia and the frankly laughable manner in which Christian Horner and his colleagues managed the situation is testament to the growing political trend in Red Bull that has been accelerating since Turkey 2010. Furthermore, the build up to the Chinese Grand Prix emphasized the political tension in the team, with Sebastian Vettel reiterating to the press that he would indeed disregard team orders to take another win in the future. None of this provides a great environment for a happy team dynamic. The only thing holding the team together, it seems, is the sheer speed of the car, and even that seems to be uncertain.

Why, then, will the rumors of a Kimi/Vettel pairing at Red Bull in 2014 not seem to die? If you examine the friendship the two of them share, it wouldn’t seem unlikely that their off-track relationship could come to the track as well. Kimi and Sebastian are known friends and the time they spend together at their homes in Switzerland would seem to suggest that any on-track clashes they may have these days to not make their way home. These are the very reasons a Mark Webber/Fernando Alonso pairing at Ferrari was toyed with for a while in recent years. Certainly the miserable time the Australian has been experiencing at Red Bull in recent days makes that a very attractive option.

We must, though, remember the very reason Kimi came back to Formula One: he missed it. This simple fact is a testament to his desire to just race and not have to deal with intra-team drama. What he gets in Lotus is a very clever, motivated, professional, and promising team that offers the Finn the perfect environment to race and have the opportunity to fight for wins and the championship. Even the financial limitations of the team and their inability to perhaps keep up with the top teams in terms of development doesn’t seem to faze Kimi. He couldn’t give a rat’s ass if he won the championship again, to be honest. He has already proved he is worthy of that title and he is not one to need to make a point over and over again. Kimi is only here to race fast cars as fast as he can. The fact that Lotus is a very competitive team is an added bonus. Kimi is unlikely to give up his freedom in a hurry, especially if his new home is to be fraught with politics and most importantly, media requirements.

That latter point is another reason why Kimi does not belong at Red Bull. Yes, in his WRC days, he was sponsored by Red Bull, but the media requirements of WRC are nothing compared to those of Formula One. If Kimi is content with his obligations at Lotus (and evidence seems to support this), then his limit will be just the minimum of Red Bull’s requirements.

All of this may lead you to believe that Kimi is a lazy sod. But, as we saw last year, when his car was in position to win (Bahrain, Hungary, Abu Dhabi) he will go for that win with all of his ability and determination. However, if he is not in the position to win, he won’t bother risking the car or himself to try to be. This makes him one of the most quality drivers on the grid; he knows when the time is right and wrong to push. This is also something of extreme value to Lotus, who cannot always afford to lose cars and parts at each race. He sets a great example for Romain Grosjean while also providing faultless race craft and consistency.

There was a time, however, when his motivation came into question. In 2009, his Ferrari was nowhere near the fastest car of the field, and the seemed to affect his personal desire to do well. Additionally, the team itself was gearing up to end his contract a year early to take on Fernando Alonso for 2010. If Kimi knew about this beforehand, this may have played on his mind throughout the season. The effects of that uncertainty and lack of support from his team were the main reason for his exit from the sport at the end of the 2009 season.

And this is precisely why a Vettel/Kimi would simply not work. If Red Bull are prepared to completely do away with team orders (especially in the second race of the season), then maybe the paring could work. Seeing as how that would not be a likely scenario and that Red Bull’s alliances are unlikely to sway anytime soon, Red Bull will have to wait for a new driver. If Mark Webber leaves at the end of the season (a prospect which increases in probability by the day), then Red Bull will have to make sure that their drivers at Toro Rosso are up to par. They are a gamble to be honest, and Red Bull cannot afford to fall behind in terms of driver skill.

Raikkonen is in the perfect team at the moment. They provide a calm, but focused environment for him to just get on with his racing. This is great, as that is his greatest asset. If Red Bull truly want the Finn, they will have to pay a big price.

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One thought on “Why Raikkonen Does Not Belong at Red Bull

  1. Its funny to see how Red Bull has evolved from a carefree, fun-loving team to a serious one. Interesting how politics begin taking over once you become succesful.

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