By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Motorsports Tribune reviews the top 10 Formula 1 drivers of 2017. Our list continues with fourth-place finisher Kimi Raikkonen.
Kimi Raikkonen, No. 7 Scuderia Ferrari
- 2017: 4th in the championship, 205 points
- Wins: 0, Podiums: 7, Top 5: 15, Top 10: 16, Poles: 1, Laps Led: 40, Fastest Laps: 2
- Best Finish: 2nd – Two times (Monaco, Hungary)
Kimi Raikkonen was the only driver from the big three teams in 2017 not to win a Grand Prix. It is a hard statistic to swallow for a driver who also finished 112 points behind his teammate, but it is also true that Raikkonen was arguably not allowed to win a race when the opportunity presented itself to him.
In a sense it was perhaps inevitable when his teammate Sebastian Vettel won the season opener and then followed it up with first or second place in the next five races.
Yet it was that sixth race, the Monaco Grand Prix that proved the turning point and the highlight of the season all at once.
After a lackluster string of fourth and fifth place finishes, Raikkonen reminded all of his immense talent with a stunning pole around the streets of Monte Carlo. In the process he set a new F1 record for time elapsed between successive pole positions as it was 3,262 days since his last pole position which he set at the 2008 French Grand Prix.
Raikkonen led at the start with Vettel in second, but Ferrari allowed Vettel to run a longer first stint which allowed him a rare “overcut” and he emerged from the pits just in front of a furious Raikkonen who couldn’t find a way past. Once the opportunity to win at Monaco slipped from his grasp Kimi served as a dutiful number two driver for the remainder of the season.
His only other opportunity for victory came at a very tense Hungaroring where he was forced to play rear guard for Vettel who suffered from a bizarre steering issue, yet was somehow able to hang on for the win.
It is not to say that Raikkonen had a bad season, just one rather below par for one of the most accomplished drivers on the grid. Thankfully Kimi has a fairly solid history of following up a weaker season with a better one and seems to only reach his peak when maximum pressure is applied.
Many are waiting for the inevitable retirement announcement and young Charles Leclerc surely has his eye on the coveted Ferrari seat, but Raikkonen is a driver who has finished on the podium in one out of every three races in his career, he has more fastest laps than any driver bar Michael Schumacher, he is a world champion. To count him down and out would be more than premature. If he can capture the magic he found at Monaco and apply it to the 2018 season, the Raikkonen of old will finally reemerge.