Driver of the Year: Kimi Raikkonen
31 December, 2012
Picture a pitch black stage. A drum roll begins, growing quickly to an explosive crescendo as a spotlight suddenly illuminates a microphone stand…a figure trudges into the limelight wearing a baseball cap with a straightened peak, a black t-shirt and khaki utility shorts. Ice blue eyes peer into the darkness for a few seconds before we hear a familiar monotone: “I hate awards ceremonies.”
And with that Kimi Matias Räikkönen turns on his heel and darts out of the closest exit – clutching the highly coveted, prestigious YallaF1.com 2012 Driver of the Year Award – to a standing ovation from hundreds of F1 luminaries.
So there we have it, Raikkonen, the Iceman is our 2012 Driver of the Year. In a field of 23 nerds, the Finn was “The Dude” – in the Big Lubowski kind of way – and coming back to the sport in a manner that suggested that he had hardly been away.
Rewind to 2001, when a fresh faced Raikkonen was announced as a Sauber driver alongside Nick Heidfeld. At that point Raikkonen had only competed in 23 single-seater races, mostly in the minor Formula Ford arena, prior to that he did some karting. In other words he was virtually born a Formula One driver.
Hence it was no surprise that his WRC forays with Citroen ended more often than not with bent metal, and his NASCAR escapades were a mere flirtation.
Raikkonen is an out and out F1 driver. It’s as simple as that.
Nevertheless his comeback was looked upon with scepticism in some quarters – as sporting comebacks often are, but it took little time to silence the naysayers, as he topped the timing sessions in the first test he took part in, at Jerez early in the year.
The rest is (recent) history. Some will argue that the Lotus was a world championship winning car, but you could also venture that Raikkonen in a Red Bull RB8 would have been world champion. The debate would rage forever…
In terms of his comeback – it was simply stellar – perhaps the blistering raw speed of the past was not quite there, but then he made few mistakes all year and scored in 19 of the 20 races, was on the podium seven times, won in Abu Dhabi and finished third in the world championship.
Yes, the E20 was a good piece of kit, but it never really suited Raikkonen and his discomfort early in the season was an issue. They reached a compromise but the Finn was never really in his element when he sat in Lotus the cockpit.
He was also paired with the golden boy Romain Grosjean, well known for his raw speed in GP2, and keen to make amends for his abortive introduction to Formula One with Renault in 2009. Granted, the young Frenchman tended to have a slight edge in outright pace, but was simply no match for the craft and experience of Raikkonen. Grosjean is lucky to have kept his seat as he endured an incident packed season. He was perhaps over eager to match and beat his slightly older, but far wiser teammate.
Perhaps the most telling quote was his response when asked why his comeback was way more successful than that of seven time world champion Michael Schumacher. Raikkonen replied oozing honesty and respect at the same time, “It’s just about whether you have a good car or not. It has made life much easier for me. [Schumacher] was not so lucky.”
Ultimately Raikkonen brought more to the party this year than anyone else. He broke the monotony of an increasingly spin doctored sport where the likes of Timo Glock and Pedro de la Rosa, among many others, have to sing the praises of a hopeless car when all they really want to say is: “This is a piece of sh*t, but I gave it my best shot and ended 19th.”
Raikkonen would say that for sure, but then he would never demean himself to drive a piece of sh*t.
His unique dry humour was evident throughout the year in most of his interviews, and the videos he made – the contract signing and the Christmas wishes – were hilarious.
His banter (for lack of a better word) with his engineer during his course to victory in Abu Dhabi was the stuff of legend and his now famous: “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” is a slogan that will stand the test of time.
But what swung it for us in the end was his salute to James Hunt by wearing the British world champion’s helmet replica during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend – a gesture that said so much about Raikkonen – a true touch of class.
The Finn embodies that same intangible spirit that makes him one of the most loved drivers of this generation and his legacy will live on beyond his era, pretty much like Gilles Villeneuve who despite only winning six grands prix is still one of the most popular drivers of all time, 30 years after his death at Zolder.
The doyen of F1 writers Nigel Roebuck summed up the sentiment best when writing his column in the January 2013 edition of Motorsport: “As far as I’m concerned, it can only be good that in 2012 there still resides a free spirit in grand prix racing.” Spot-on Mr Roebuck.
In other words, The Dude among the 23 nerds.
Alonso and Vettel hard to separate them
Judging by comments on YallaF1.com, the result might have been different had readers been polled, with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel probably slugging it out for top spot for our prestigious Driver of the Year Award.
What lost if for them both was that they moaned too much in their own inimitable ways.
Vettel was too quick to insult rivals in far inferior cars, or criticise his peers. Calling Narain Karthikeyan a cucumber was out of line for a world champion. Having a go at Lewis Hamilton after their tussle in Germany, although the McLaren driver was a lap down, spoke of a spoilt child.
Red Bull go to great lengths to inform the world that both their drivers ,Mark Webber and Vettel, enjoy equal equipment, and perhaps this is true, but perhaps it isn’t.
Clearly from Singapore onwards the RB8 seemed to favour Vettel’s style, while Webber appeared to struggle to extract the same amount of performance – especially in race mode.
As much as they try to deny the fact, and their denials a sure sign, Vettel is number one in that team and the cars are built for him no matter what Christian Horner says.
Alonso was like a stuck record all year long reminding us in his cunning manner how bad the Ferrari was and only a miracle had them so high up in the standings each race, no prizes for guessing who the ‘miracle’ was. Agreed, many imbeciles follow F1 but Alonso’s interviews were guilelessly condescending. And Fernando, what’s with the whole Samurai thing?
Unlike Red Bull, Ferrari makes no secret that the team is geared up to ensure that Alonso has everything as his disposal to go to ‘war’. This includes the subservience of Felipe Massa who has accepted his career saving role as number two with relish.
In our books Alonso and Vettel tied for second place because of the above-mentioned reasons and they simply lacked ‘The Dude’ factor that helped clinch it for Raikkonen.
Hamilton’s year of too many misses
Lewis Hamilton endured a season packed with little luck. His two retirements while leading comfortably, in Singapore and Abu Dhabi were gut wrenching, and he too was an oft forgotten victim of Grosjean’s kamikaze antics at Spa. Without these setbacks, he may have even been champion.
In fact, if we judged Hamilton from Monza onwards he would probably be our driver of the Year, but his early season antics cost him dearly. From the early criticism of his crew, which admittedly did cost him points and possibly even a win with their pit stop fumbles, but the ill-chosen words thereafter only served to alienate the darling of the team and turn him into the villain. Losing the garage floor was the beginning of the end.
Then there were the Tweets; What was he thinking?
Hamilton is trying hard to shed his nerd-ness, hence the proliferation of gangsta rappers and people’s poets in his pit garage on race weekends, but truth is when his homies hang out with him on race weekends he tends to implode as he did on a number of occasions in the first half of the season, including the Twitter saga.
Yet when his old man Anthony is hovering in the pit garage, dispensing bear hugs on the grid to his son, young Hamilton excels as he did in the final half of the season, with papa in the background.
Trick question for Lewis: Who best to have in your pit garage on race weekends?
Button was marking time in 2012
Jenson Button’s season was somewhat enigmatic as he started the year with a win and ended with another maximum points haul, but in between April and July the Englishman was absent without leave and this did his title aspirations no favours.
He bounced back in the latter half of the year, with a famous victory in Belgium and some feisty performances thereafter. But reflecting on his season it seems that Button was marking time in 2012 as he waits to ascend the throne of number one driver in the Woking squad.
In the end we have to step back and ask a simple question about the 2012 season:
Which of the five YallaF1.com candidates for Driver of the Year would have attracted more fans to Formula 1 this past year?
The very obvious answer: Kimi Raikkonen.
A second opinion, by Adrian Nel
The debate was intense, if brief. When the editorial team of YallaF1.com sat down to make a final decision on Driver of the Year, this writer had been adamant that one Fernando Alonso had impressed so strongly that our man for twenty twelve had to be the Spanish guy who has a pop star for an ex wife, and would have been a maths teacher had he not become an F1 jockey.
Instead the editor of GPI pulled rank – GPI is after all our prestige publication, and we ended up agreeing that the star performance of a most amazing season of F1 racing – undoubtedly the most exciting season in recent memory, came from the rock star of F1 who would have been a rally maniac if he had not become an F1 superstar…well, in terms of alternate career paths, the Iceman certainly wouldn’t have considered the public speaking circuit – an irony if ever there was one as he is known for ‘doing his talking on the track’.
Yes, Kimi’s comeback was great to watch, and oddly enough great to listen to – the sound bite of his terse response to his chatty engineer has become the stuff of great F1 background stories – “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” will someday be written into the history books. In the meantime, those eight words have been captured on some very collectible T shirts.
Some 500 were made at the behest of the Finn, as if to prove that he has a sense of humour as sharp as wheelmanship. If you want one, you’d best befriend some Enstone employee, but you’d probably have to ply him or her with a lot of alcohol, and still have to part with a lot of your hard earned dosh before said employee would be prepared to part with such a gem.
While the F1 fan world (made up to a large extent of Yalla F1.com readers like you) was debating whether Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel deserved the 2012 drivers’ title, Kimi Raikonnen totally outperformed all expectations and made it difficult for this writer to argue the case for Fernando Alonso taking our Driver of the Year title.
Given the above, it should then come as no real surprise that Fernando ran Kimi a close second – after all, such is title is specifically not about pure statistics, if it was, the coveted trophy would have gone to a certain young German – please note, definitely not the older German who chose the wrong team for his comeback. The debate about whether Herr Schumacher should have chosen red over silver, back in 2010, is a debate best left to another day, and some other commentators. (Grand Prix 247)
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