Kimi Raikkonen has confirmed after Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix that his Ferrari’s engineers put him on an alternate strategy which forced him to stay behind team mate Vettel, despite Raikkonen feeling he “had all the tools to finish in a better position.”
Raikkonen explained that his engineers insisted he pit on lap 33, just one lap after race leader Vettel. “I wanted to stay on track a bit longer because I felt I had the speed,” admitted Raikkonen.
He then expanded, telling the media Ferrari made this decision specifically because “the team has the big picture” – an allusion to Sebastian Vettel’s championship challenge, which is currently all-but-successful with the German leading rival Lewis Hamilton by 14 points.
Crucially, Raikkonen did go onto say the team has his “trust” with this decision. Had Ferrari decided to let Raikkonen attack, with Vettel consequently finishing P2 – the latter’s championship lead would be just 7 points.
“I ended up following Seb through the whole race and I was never able to use my full speed,” Raikkonen revealed.
The Finnish driver, who currently sits 5th in the championship with four podiums to his name, then further showed his approval of Ferrari treating him as a guinea pig for Vettel’s championship.
“I’m here to win races,” he admitted, “but If you take the big picture it was a great weekend, we got the maximum out of it.”
Funnily enough, Raikkonen reaffirmed this viewpoint in the official Drivers Press Conference, where he similarly told media, “Obviously I want to win but great for the team.”
During the same conference, Raikkonen re-confirmed for the media, “[Ferrari] had a plan as a team and, y’know, it was a fair game.”
Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari’s Team Principal, even admitted Raikkonen was used during the Grand Prix, calling his driver a “true team-player” in post-race interviews.
Although not explicitly stated, both Arrivabene and Raikkonen’s post-race statements suggest there was collusion within the team to not let Raikkonen past Vettel, who’s pace was affected throughout the race because of a steering issue.
Pundits, including David Croft and Anthony Davidson, suggested during the Grand Prix Ferrari should have made the switch as early as lap 50 to ensure the team could take the race win with Raikkonen. This was because Mercedes majorly caught both Ferrari drivers, who were running 1-2, in the second half of the race, thought to be due to Vettel’s lack of pace with his issue.
As hindsight later proved, swapping the drivers this early would have proved, overall, unnecessary as Vettel eventually took home the Grand Prix win with Raikkonen just 0.908s behind.
But, without that element of hindsight, when Mercedes looked dead set on taking victory because of Vettel’s lack of pace, Ferrari did prove they were not going to risk losing Vettel’s result.
What must be noted is Raikkonen’s acceptance of these policies.
He did say the team has his “trust” and says he actually lost this race on Saturday, due to his mistakes during qualifying.