Kimi Raikkonen is entering his 15th season in Formula 1, in a career that has seen many great drives, perhaps the greatest of all was back in Suzuka, 2005.
Qualifying took place in the wet, and it saw a rather unusual grid form for the race. Ralf Schumacher took pole in the Toyota ahead of Jenson Button’s BAR and Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault. Raikkonen, teammate Juan-Pablo Montoya, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher all qualified much further down the field. As the race got underway, all four of them made rapid progress through the pack but that progress was stalled at the end of lap 1. Montoya had attempted to go around the outside of Jaques Villeneuve, but the Canadian pushed him wide into the barriers at the last corner, which then brought out the safety car. This ruined the likes of Schumacher R’s strategy, who was running on very low fuel at the start of the race.
Once the safety car went in, Raikkonen and co continued to make rapid progress. Alonso had a few tussles with the Red Bull of Christian Klien, having to let him past twice after overtaking the Red Bull by missing the final chicane. Then Alonso pulled off one of the passes of the decade, going around the outside of Schumacher at 130R, a move that is regarded as one of the bravest moves in Formula 1’s history. Raikkonen would himself pull off a move like this later in the race. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Fisichella was enjoying a comfortable lead and looked the clear favourite to win the race. After his daring pass on Schumacher, Alonso pitted as Raikkonen and Schumacher scrapped for a couple more laps. They both boxed soon after and emerged in front of Alonso. This really set up the charge for Raikkonen.
“What a move! Side by side down the straight, Grand Prix Racing at its absolute finest!”
James Allen, ITV F1 commentator
Raikkonen got stuck behind Webber and Button but soon got past them, having to pick up the pace as Alonso was rapidly closing in. After the final pitstops had taken place, Raikkonen really put his foot down and charged after Fisichella’s Renault. Lap after lap saw him close down the Renault, and with three laps to go he made his move down the pit straight. Fisichella defended well, but on the very last lap, Raikkonen got a superb run down the straight and swept around the outside of the Renault to storm into the lead. He never looked back and won what would be his final win for McLaren, ahead of Fisichella and Alonso, who put on an equally incredible drive to take 3rd place. This race is surely the greatest of Raikkonen’s career.
It has been nearly four years since Raikkonen last took a victory, the last one being for Lotus in the 2013 Australian Grand Prix. The talent and speed is still there, and might have been resting dormant for while. All of a sudden, Formula One finds itself in a place similar to the mid-naughties, and the drivers who were competing in F1 at this time have shown flashes of outstanding pace in testing. Inside and outside sources believe that the Ferrari is the team to beat heading to Melbourne, and the Iceman has more experience than his teammate in these conditions that mirror an era in which he was at the top of his game.