Ferrari’s decision to have Kimi Raikkonen pit first turned out to cost the Finn victory in Monaco – and Ferrari should have known better.
F1 race strategy is not an exact science. But Ferrari should have known better than to call Kimi in when they did during the Monaco Grand Prix. Raikkonen was on track to win his first Grand Prix of 2017 – a momentous occasion would it have come to pass. The Finnish Ferrari driver was on top form as he set and absolutely bewildering pace during the qualifying session at Monaco, and looked to be ready to convert the pole all the way to the end – until the pit strategy.
As the leading car, Kimi got pit priority, and Ferrari pulled him in first true to their strategy. However, their decision to have Raikkonen pit when he did let his Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel, to run on leisurely in clean air while Riakkonen was forced to rejoin the race in heavy traffic, sealing his fate to sit on the second-place podium stand in Monaco. It is bizarre that Ferrari only called Kimi into the pits without warning, a few laps of being informed on the call might have prompted him to push the tyres hard before the stop. There are many accusations of how Ferrari has intentionally sabotaged Kimi’s chances of winning in via team orders to support their “star driver” Sebastien Vettel. While we won’t be giving any credence to that speculation here, Ferrari’s move was no different to what Mercedes have employed in places like Bahrain, when Bottas had to move aside for Hamilton. There seems to be a shrug and acceptance attitude for this, but when something similar happens at Ferrari, there’s outrage. Both outcomes are inorganic of race pace, but assure that each driver that has the most points in the driver standings continues to.
Though some may believe such a criticism to be too harsh for the team, a strategy group performing at the level of Formula One’s competition should be capable enough of calculating when the approaching lapped traffic will pass around the pits and position their driver accordingly. When Raikkonen was pitted on lap 34, he emerged directly behind traffic, and wasn’t able to use his new rubber for some laps in clean air, whilst Vettel was released at the front. Tyre degradation can’t be a reason for Kimi’s stop either, on the lap before he was pitted, he had set his fastest lap. While even members of Kimi’s team – particularly his lead engineer – were visibly irate at the call’s result, the Finn himself has taken the blow and is already prepared to move on, saying that the result was good for the team, but disappointing for himself:
“We tried to figure out something that is impossible to know right now, at least from my side. No, obviously it wasn’t ideal to end up behind a lapped car and obviously it is something that definitely doesn’t help but the end result is what it is – but we have to see.
We just finished the race and I only know what happened and that’s it. Obviously, I got second place but yeah, for the team good but not for myself, not so great.
Obviously, I can stop the car if I want! I’m driving it. We have a team, we work as a team and if you start… if you don’t believe what you’ve been told or how we work, then it will get very complicated sometimes, because we always try to work as best as we can and today, as a team, we won it one-two, that happened, but as for myself it could have been better, but like I said, we just finished the race and who knows?
We will talk about it and I guess there are some reasons for everything that happens in life. As a driver, I can obviously do what I want but that’s not how we work as a team. Simple as that.”
– Kimi Raikkonen
Ferrari’s response thus far to the ordeal has been mostly one of denying that team orders were involved while playing up the fact that anything can happen out on the track on race day. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll receive any sort of admittance from the team that they’re favoring Vettel, but the proof is in the pudding. Or pit strategy, in this case.