Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We Have a Winner

Kimi Raikkonen has taken the 2007 Formula 1 World Drivers Championship and I can't think of a more deserving winner.

I've long been a fan of Raikkonen, his effortless yet devastatingly fast style, his unflappable calmness under pressure, and most of all his constant middle finger to the F1 establishment. It's often said that he is monosyllabic, dull and lacking charisma but nothing is further from the truth. The most telling example of Kimi's lively character in recent years was his response to Martin Brundle on the grid of the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix. Now it might not seem like much, maybe slightly immature, but in F1s current world of PR domination such comments are like gold dust. The truth is he really couldn't give two shits as to what anybody thinks.

And it is this somewhat callous attitude to Formula 1 that stands Kimi in such good stead. Talking about his chances of winning the championship after qualifying in Brazil Kimi simply said "I am confident that I will be able to keep my chances alive right to the end." compare this to Alonso who said "Unfortunately, one of the possibilities to win the championship was to win the race. Now, it's unlikely to happen." The difference is clear. Alonso had resigned himself to losing but Raikonnen gave a stock answer but an optimistic one none the less. Raikkonen doesn't get involved in team politics, he just shuts up and drives.

Qualifying in Brazil was a perfect example. Hamilton had got in Raikkonen's way during the Finn's final flying lap and probably caused Kimi up to 3 tenths in the second sector. Yet there wasn't so much as an utter of appeal from Raikkonen. Hamilton even admitted, after a grilling from a French journalist, that he had apologised to Kimi - essentially admitting his guilt. Any response from Kimi? None at all. When you consider what a fuss Massa and Ferrari made of Alonso's actions in Monza last year you realise quite how easy Lewis got off. Instead Raikkonen rolled up to P3 on the grid, made the start of the season and put Hamilton in a position that he couldn't recover from. It was probably some of the most aggressive defensive driving all year. Yet it was incredibly subtle and devastatingly effective. When you can do that on the track then there is no need to go crying to the stewards when another car gets in the way on a flyer.

I've been reading a lot about James Hunt recently, and I know the comparison has been made before (not least by Kimi himself), but the two really are alike. The stories of wild nights, dressing as gorillas and general laddish behaviour are attributed to both. What's more when James Hunt was at his prime (circa 1976) he would be equally obnoxious towards the press and just as rapid on the track. I'm looking forward to the moment when Kimi turns up wearing a overalls emblaoned with "Sex, a Champions Breakfast" ... probably wishful thinking.

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