Regardless of the condition of his ankle, I do not believe that Kimi Raikkonen should be on the grid for the German Grand Prix in two weeks time. The first lap incident which brought out the red flags in yesterday’s British Grand Prix was born of such staggering racing negligence, that I am truly of the opinion that the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion should be left at home to contemplate what could have been a far worse accident, resulting in far greater injuries than the bruised ankle he suffered.
Here are the facts. In the midst of a first lap battle, Kimi Raikkonen ran wide at Aintree corner. Using the vast asphalt run off, he kept his right foot planted so as not to lose too many positions. Maintaining racing speed, he drove back onto the track and into the pack on the Wellington Straight.
There was nothing strange about this. We see it every week. These men are racing drivers, the best in the world, and it is rare that one of them would chose to lift and heed position. The fact that so many modern racing circuits have replaced gravel traps with asphalt runoff only serves to promote such activity for without the asphalt, cars that run wide at such speed would, in years gone by, have ended up beached and out of the race.
In Sunday’s case, there was also the issue of a strip of grass / gravel separating the asphalt run off and the track. This gulley was at a slightly different height to both the runoff and the track, and it was this element which caused Raikkonen’s Ferrari F14T to become unsettled as it re-entered the track.
Our initial impressions were that, so fast and heavy was Raikkonen’s connection with this gulley, that it had broken his rear suspension, causing the sharp spearing to the right and launching the car into the 47G impact with the metal barrier. However in Ferrari’s official press statement, no mention is made of such damage, instead merely referencing that “a rut between the grass and the tarmac spun his F14 T around.”
Over the past few hours I have read countless arguments that we should blame this element of the track for the incident, and while I agree that perhaps this is something that needs to be looked at for next year, it does not exonerate the Finn.
Drivers conduct track walks before the race weekend to take note of precisely this type of detail. They will walk into gravel traps to see how much asphalt exists at the extremity near the barrier incase they run off and can make it through to the side to continue on their way. They look for manhole covers, changes in asphalt, kerbing, astroturf etc. Famously, Raikkonen rarely conducts such track walks. Had he done so this weekend, he might have been more aware of the safe re-entry points.
When you distill it down, it really is very simple. Raikkonen ran wide in an on-track battle. He maintained and, by continuing his acceleration, increased racing speed off-track. He re-entered the track at speed, on the racing line, and in an unsafe manner. He was not in control of his car and was responsible for a huge accident, the aftermath of which saw loose wheels and debris strewn across the track.
Raikkonen’s accident caused the retirement of Felipe Massa. The wheel, torn from the F14T in the incident, narrowly missed Marrusia’s Max Chilton as it bounced just inches wide of his head.
It was a nasty and unnecessary accident. Yes the runoff and the track played their part. But, and I have seen no mention from Ferrari that Raikkonen was experiencing any issue which would have taken control of the car or crucially throttle application away from him, it was the Finn and the Finn alone whose decisions and driving created the accident, one from which we are lucky everyone walked away.
I see no difference between this lack of judgment and the lack of judgment displayed by Romain Grosjean at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix. Regardless of intent, the result of his actions created an unacceptable level of danger to the driver himself, his on-track rivals, and workers around the track.
For that reason I believe that Kimi Raikkonen, regardless of his achievements, victories, racing team or world championship, should face the same punishment as the Frenchman and should sit out the next race.