In 2014, Kimi Raikkonen returned to Ferrari after two impressive years at the Lotus F1 Team. Seven podiums, including a win in 2012, netted an impressive third place in the championship after three years away from the sport.
The following season yielded more success. Victory in the opening race of the year set up a title charge, and more races should have gone his way, particularly the German Grand Prix. His first year back with Ferrari though was a complete disaster. Raikkonen only scored 55 points, compared to teammate Fernando Alonso’s 161. The following season, 2015, was much better, and netted three podiums. However, new teammate Sebastian Vettel scored three wins. He also amassed almost double the points of Kimi, and was rarely off the podium.
In 2016, the Iceman’s form did improve. He came close to winning the Spanish Grand Prix and gave Vettel a run for his money towards the season’s end, and out-qualified the German 11-10 over the course of the season. It was enough for the Finn to earn another contract with the Scuderia. However, it has to be questioned how long Raikkonen will continue to be at. Whilst Vettel’s contract also runs out after 2017, it is more likely that Raikkonen will be the driver to leave the team. Not only because Raikkonen is much older either…
Raikkonen has yet to win at Ferrari since rejoining the team. Whereas teammate Vettel won three races in his first year. If Ferrari want to become Constructors champions again, they need a driver who cannot just score consistently, but win races too. Both Mercedes drivers were capable of winning races and winning championships, and Valtteri Bottas surely will do likewise for the team. Both of Ferrari’s drivers are world champions, but one is more nearer to the end of his career than the other.
But who could replace the Iceman? Which driver would best fit the team? I believe there are two real contenders…
The Honey Badger
Probably the most obvious choice for Ferrari is Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian is one of the most highly rated drivers on the grid, and for good reason. His 2014 season was nothing short of stellar, and he has put in many an impressive drives since his three victories that year. Two wins escaped him in 2016, the one at Monaco after one of THE qualifying laps of the hybrid era.. His win in Malaysia was just reward for a remarkable 2016 campaign, especially with Max Verstappen as his teammate. Daniel is incredible on the brakes, and his smiley exterior hides a ferocious animal. An animal that knows what to risk and when to risk it, more often than not making it work.
“Am I the only driver on that list? Probably not. Am I their top pick? I don’t know. I’m aware they’d be interested; I don’t blame them!”
The word ‘mistake’ is not one that is often associated with Ricciardo. Officially though, he is at Red Bull for the next two seasons, and that doesn’t look set to change. However, he admitted last year that he was on Ferrari’s ‘shopping list’ if they did decide to oust Kimi. Whilst there was no known contact between either party at the time, Ferrari would be foolish to not at least consider Ricciardo for the drive in 2018.
A few years ago, you wouldn’t consider Sergio Perez for this list. However, since joining Force India after a tough season at McLaren, things have only gone up for Checo. Despite teammate Nico Hulkenburg being highly rated, Sergio Perez has been the one who has taken four podiums for Force India since he and ‘The Hulk’ became teammates. He took podiums in Baku and Monaco in 2016, and qualified second on the road in the former event. After finishing behind Hulkenburg in the 2014 standings, Checo beat his teammate last year and did so again last season. His tyre management is also second to none, the podium in Russia in 2015 partly down to this, much like some of his 2012 podiums with the Sauber team. Ferrari will surely be knocking on his door come 2018.
“As a racing driver it makes you feel proud, especially how my career has been in the past years. I know I’m doing a good job and performing well and working well with the team [Force India]. That’s good for everyone.”
The man himself sounded happy to be linked with the Scuderia last season. Checo historically has had one year renewals with Force India. This happened again for 2017, meaning he is a free agent for 2018. This perhaps might make him the most likely Raikkonen replacement.
A Ferrari driver tops this list of drivers with the most fastest laps in F1, did you know the others?