Analysis: Raikkonen’s raw pace stronger than that of Vettel

Kimi Raikkonen has come under fire from Ferrari’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, following his P5 finish in the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix.

After another underwhelming finish in the recent Austrian Grand Prix for Kimi Raikkonen, he’s come under fire from the CEO of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne.

A “higher level of commitment” is what the big boss wants to see from the Iceman, who eventually finished the race in a lowly fifth after starting from a promising third.

But, is the criticism of Raikkonen completely justified? Currently, neither Raikkonen nor team mate Sebastian Vettel are signed to the Scuderia for 2017, making their respective performances in upcoming rounds all the more important.

The current podium, wins, poles and points tallies paints a major advantage to Vettel – so we wanted to know if Vettel was also all that much faster on raw pace?

Well, Vettel’s margin is surprisingly slashed considerably when two crucial sections of the race are used to compare the two of them. Firstly, an average lap time for each driver was calculated using their pace between lap 10 and 30 of the Austrian Grand Prix.

This period was specifically chosen because both drivers were in similar predicaments with drivers around them during these 21 laps. On lap 10, Vettel was 4.454 seconds off Bottas in front; by comparison, Raikkonen was 3.800 seconds behind Ricciardo.

By lap 30, both drivers hadn’t changed their on-track positions; Vettel was now 8.157 behind Bottas, Raikkonen 6.209 behind Ricciardo.

Interestingly, in this period, which clearly has the two drivers in similar positions, Vettel’s average lap time was 0.184s faster than that of Raikkonen. During this period, both drivers were using ultrasoft tires of the same wear with traffic not being a factor in the timings.

Kimi Raikkonen on-track during the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix.

The difference is admittedly small, but when the average gap is applied to the 21 lap portion of the race, Raikkonen would’ve lost 3.864 seconds to Vettel.

In defense of Raikkonen, however, his pace was far stronger in the second stint, which is when Sebastian Vettel thought “[the] balance of the car improved.”

Comparing the average lap times from the fifteen laps directly after each drivers solitary pit stops, the average pace of Raikkonen was 0.267s a lap faster than Vettel in those fifteen laps.

Interestingly, by applying that average to the fifteen laps, it’s revealed Raikkonen would’ve made up 4.005 seconds up on Vettel.

This is extremely important because Vettel’s advantage in the first stint was only 3.864 seconds, effectively meaning the raw pace of the two stints saw Raikkonen go, on average, 0.141s faster than Vettel – despite their difference in finishing positions.

It must be said, though, Marchionne’s commitment comments still have some relevance to Kimi Raikkonen. It was Daniel Ricciardo’s aggressive move at Turn 3 on the opening lap which ultimately put Raikkonen out of place for the ensuing race.

Raikkonen was always in the dirty air of Ricciardo, and Lewis Hamilton best demonstrated the inability to make on-track overtakes work with a rather lackluster march to the front.

Apart from the midfield runners, who couldn’t do much against a works Mercedes, Hamilton would only pass Raikkonen for position in the Austrian Grand Prix.

And, arguably, Hamilton could only get the move done because Ferrari decided to use Raikkonen as a guinea pig in their attempt to award Sebastian Vettel a victory. Raikkonen was the last of the top 5 to make his stop, and this meant Hamilton had an advantage of 13 lap fresher tires.

With this taken in to account, it’s far easier to understand why Raikkonen could only finish fifth.

His raw pace on the supersoft is evidence that he’s capable of competing. But Marchionne’s point stands: Raikkonen needs more commitment, despite his ability to go faster on average.

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Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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