Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
- Reactions on Raikkonen’s return to F1
- Raikkonen - Another piece in the puzzle
- Formula One 2011 season statistics
Reactions on Raikkonen’s return to F1
With the return of the Iceman to Formula One, there will be six World Champions on the 2012 grid: Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
Double World Champion Vettel said it could be a difficult return for Raikkonen, “We have all seen Michael's comeback, He left when he was at the top, but when he came back he said a lot had changed and that he needed time to adapt.” And he explained, “If I think about the car I drove two years ago, so many things have changed. It's amazing. Even during a season, new buttons appear on the steering wheel.” And added, “I can imagine it would be very difficult to return straight away to the same level as before.”
Raikkonen insists not much has changed, “The braking distances, the G-forces, the acceleration, those will come back very quickly. The biggest thing for sure will be to get the neck used to it again, but all the rest, I think it takes a while, but it's not a big thing.” But there a few things he will have to get used to, KERS, DRS and the new Pirelli tyres.
More negative statements came from former Formula One drivers Christian Danner and Marc Surer. Danner, “Quite simply, he was already past his best when he stopped,” and Surer agreed, “Whenever I think about Kimi I always worry about his motivation. His rallying did not bring him the desired result so he tries Formula One again?”
Pedro de la Rosa, who will make a comeback in 2012 for HRT commented, “He is one the drivers that I worked best with. He is such a natural talent and Formula One is better with him than without him.” Peter Sauber, who signed Raikkonen in 2001, “He needs to be motivated, and Kimi will only be motivated if he's in a top car.”
McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh is adamant Raikkonen is still hungry for success, “I am sure he hasn't lost the capability to thrill us so I think it would be fantastic for Formula One.” Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali of course also knows Raikkonen very well, “He is very talented, very strong, he was the last driver to win the World Championship with us and he will want to show he is still one of the strongest.”
Jean Alesi, Group Lotus Ambassador was pleasantly surprised by the news. “Kimi has more natural speed than just about anyone who has ever raced a Grand Prix car, and if he's coming back it's because he wants to do it, he misses Formula One, and he believes he can do well,” the former Formula One driver said. Asked whether Raikkonen’s return will be successful he replied, “He has had a short break, which was a little bit forced by Ferrari. I think he was fed up with the system and wanted to take time out, which I can totally understand. But now he's coming back, with Lotus, so it's really exciting.”
Five World Champions have to date made a return to Formula One, Niki Lauda, together with Alain Prost the most successful returnee as he won his third title in 1985 after he left at the end of the 1979 season, while Prost took the 1993 title after one year absence. Alan Jones’ return in 1985 was a complete disaster, as was Nigel Mansell’s return in 1994, although the Briton won the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, and of course Schumacher, who returned in 2010 but has yet to score a podium position, but at least his performance has been going up recently.
Without a doubt, Raikkonen will have to adapt to new things and new rules, but with his talent and devotion, it will largely depend on what Lotus Renault can offer him next season, they have stated more announcements will be made soon, and it is clear the team is serious about upping their performance, and if Raikkonen has the right car, he will certainly make a successful return.
Raikkonen - Another piece of the puzzle
With really only two months to go before the first pre-season testing days in February 2012, with Raikkonen’s return to Formula One another piece of the drivers’ puzzle has fallen into place. It was expected Raikkonen would sign for Williams, but he thought Lotus Renault would be a better option for a successful return.
Of course not good news for the remaining Lotus Renault drivers Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, as they will have to fight for the second seat. Petrov’s manager Oksana Kosachenko has paid a visit to the Enstone factory for an emergency meeting after the news emerged. It is believed the Russian has a contract for 2012, but his manager came back empty handed.
Not just that but Lotus Renault have apparently imposed a deadline to force a decision according to Kovachenko. “After today's decision was announced, I was given a very short amount of time, literally ten days. We have until December 10 to decide if Vitaly stays or leaves,” she explained. “Will the management come to an agreement with the owners?,” she remarked. “If we do, then Vitaly should take it as a given that he stays next year.”
Senna is also anxiously waiting for a final decision, but he all he can do is hope for the best, “Hopefully I will have a relaxing Christmas,” the Brazilian said, adding, “I know I made some mistakes, I did not score 10 out of 10 but I think it was not bad. I hope that the people deciding the places for next year also think so. I was very rusty.”
Williams now has two vacancies instead of one, and there are plenty of candidates. Both Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado face an uncertain future, especially Barrichello who could be forced to hang up his helmet for good. The Brazilian refuses to give up, in addition to bring new sponsors to the team, he has also said he would settle for less salary. “I don't need a big contract, all I need is to drive something next year that is competitive,” said the Brazilian veteran. Maldonado has a contract, but his seat also hangs in the balance, Williams could even decide to enter 2012 with a complete new driver line-up.
Marussia Virgin, to be “Marussia” in 2012 have confirmed their 2012 line-up, Timo Glock will stay, and Belgium Jerome d’Ambrosio will be replaced by Frenchman Charles Pic, which again narrows down the number of vacant seats. HRT have signed de la Rosa, and therefore only have one seat left, and rumors have emerged Daniel Ricciardo would go to Toro Rosso, while Toro Rosso test driver Jean-Eric Vergne could move to HRT to learn the ropes, which would be bad news for the current Toro Rosso drivers.
Toro Rosso still refuses to comment or speculate on their 212 driver line-up, but Team Principal Franz Tost even hinted both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi could be sidelined. “Right now nothing is decided,” the Austrian said. Toro Rosso will now evaluate the performance of both drivers, and then make a decision. Asked whether he was happy with their performance this season he replied: “When the car was good, they have had a good performance. Yes, in that way we're happy.” Most likely candidates for a seat at the Italian team are Vergne and Ricciardo, both Red Bull protégés.
Team Lotus, who will compete under the Caterham F1 name next year, have two drivers with a contract, but team boss Tony Fernandes could be tempted to replace Trulli if a good offer would be made. Force India team owner Vijay Mallya has postponed the announcement of his driver line-up time after time, but rumors say that Adrian Sutil has already signed a contract with Williams, while German test driver Nico Hulkenberg has signed a contract with the Indian team to partner Scottish rookie Paul di Resta at Force India, who won the crown of ‘best rookie of the year’.
Formula One 2011 season statistics
First a few overall statistics, Vettel has become the youngest driver ever to have scored two successive World Championship titles, and last weekend also improved Nigel Mansell’s record of most pole positions in one season, the German broke Mansell’s record of 14 poles during the 1992 campaign, and improved it to 15 poles in one season. But as the 1992 season had 16 races on the calendar opposed to 19 races on the 2011 calendar, Mansell scored a percentage of 88 per cent, while Vettel scored 79 per cent.
Barrichello is still the driver who holds the record of 322 career starts, and is followed by Schumacher (287), Riccardo Patrese (256) and Team Lotus driver Trulli is fourth with 252 starts. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg leads the table ‘most points scored without a win’, scoring 306.5 points in 108 starts, followed by Nick Heidfeld who scored 259 points in 183 starts.
Pirelli has published data about this season, and came to the conclusion there were 1111 pit stops in 2011, 22 of them were a drive-through penalty and four a stop and go penalty, which gives a net result of 1085 pit stops in 19 races, an average of 57 stops per race, or 2.3 stops per driver per race. The most pit stops were made during the Hungarian Grand Prix, 88 (including three drive-through penalties), while during the Italian Grand Prix only 35 pit stops were recorded. The fastest pit stop was made by Mercedes during the Chinese Grand Prix, it took the pit crew just 2.82 seconds to change four wheels.
Newcomer Pirelli produced 24,000 dry weather tyres, 4,000 wet tyres and another 6000 tyres for testing and evaluation, a total of 34,000 tyres. In total 21,000 dry tyres and 2,900 tyres were actually used, the rest went back to the factory, and Pirelli in fact has recycled all tyres they produced this season. Pirelli estimates that in total 10,200 kg of rubber, or marbles, was deposited on track, and the average life span of a set of dry tyres was 120 km.
Barcelona and Suzuka were the tracks that were the most demanding for the tyres (lateral forces, breaking, traction) while Monza was the least demanding for the tyres. The most demanding corner from a tyre point of view is the famous Turn 8 at the Istanbul Park circuit, while the Canadian circuit Gilles Villeneuve has the least demanding corners.
The longest race of the season was the Canadian Grand Prix with 4hrs 04min and 39.573s, the shortest was Monza with a time of 1hr 20min 46.172s. Vettel unsurprisingly was the man who led the most laps of the season, 739, and this season the fasted pole position was broken 11 times, and the record for the fastest race lap was broken twice. The highest speed of the season was recorded by Sergio Perez who recorded a top speed of 349.2 km/hr at Monza.
Mercedes published overtaking figures, which do not include the Brazilian Grand Prix, and came to a total of 1436 overtaking maneuvers in all categories (normal, DRS, slow cars, first lap). The clean number of passes, normal and DRS assisted overtaking, was 804, or an average of 45 per race, the highest ever recorded. Of those 804, 441 were normal overtaking, and 363 DRS assisted passes, which means DRS is responsible for almost 45 percent of all clean overtaking maneuvers, a percentage that certainly will please the FIA as it of course proves DRS was a great success after all. The highest number of clean passes was recorded in Turkey (85), Canada (79) and China was third with 67. At the bottom of the list is not surprisingly Monaco with only 15 clean passes.
The drivers who made the most passes in total are Buemi (112), Schumacher (111), Kamui Kobayashi (95), Alguersuari (90) and Perez (89). The top starter of the season was Schumacher, who gained in total 34 positions, next are Buemi (29), Kovalainen (28), Liuzzi (20) and Kobayashi (19). Drivers who gained the most positions during the first lap were Schumacher (40), Buemi (30) and Heikki Kovalainen (26), and again not surprisingly Vettel is last in those tables as he has started from the front row in 18 races and therefore there were simply not many cars to overtake.
DRS has certainly contributed to the number of passes, while Pirelli’s rapidly degrading tyres have spiced up the action on track and in the pit lane, and it is in fact hard to imagine these figures could again be improved next year.
Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”