In The Driver's Seat

In The Drivers' Seat: Little data to support theory that Raikkonen was deprived of win

If it was notable that Ferrari had not scored a victory in Monaco since Michael Schumacher way back in 2001, and that their last one-two came in Germany with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in 2010, it wasn't really news that the man who spearheaded the success was Sebastian Vettel.

But there were surprises aplenty in Monte Carlo last weekend, not least of which was Kimi Raikkonen taking pole and leading the race for the first 33 of the 78 laps.

The veteran Finn has largely been written off in recent years and many were surprised that he got a contract extension last year, but in doing so Ferrari retained a safe pair of hands for another 12 months while they contemplate just who is the best replacement for 2018. On his Monaco form, Raikkonen might even get another opportunity.

He looked his usual self at Thursday practice, seventh, half a second off Vettel in the morning and third, half a second off him in the afternoon. The gap was still close to that half-second as they moved to first and second on Saturday morning. But then he was in excellent form, right on Vettel's tail in Q1, fastest in Q2, and fastest when it really mattered, by 0.043sec in Q3. His last pole had been in France in 2008.

But did Ferrari deprive him of a well-deserved victory?

Of course they wanted Vettel to win, because he had twice the number of Raikkonen's points and they needed to take every advantage as Lewis Hamilton struggled. But the facts don't tend to bear out the "dastardly" theory.

The Finn's in-lap took 1min 34.0sec, the German's 1min 32.6sec. Their pit stops took 24.8sec and 24.3sec respectively and their out-laps took 1min 19.5sec and 1min 18.6sec.

Kimi Raikkonen is stony-faced as he lifts his trophy after finishing second to team-mate Sebastian Vettel in the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday. The Finn led the prestigious street race for the first 33 laps. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

So the figures kind of even out. But it is worth recording that Raikkonen and his engineer Dave Greenwood wanted to stay out longer, but were over-ruled by senior figures. But that might just have been because they were keen to cover the pit stops of Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.

"It's hard to say, really," Raikkonen said when asked how disappointed he felt and whether he thought he'd been hard done by. "Obviously it's still second but that doesn't feel awfully good. But that's how it goes, sometimes you have one of those days (when) you wish you (could) get a bit more."

Of course they wanted Vettel to win, because he had twice the number of Raikkonen's points and they needed to take every advantage as Lewis Hamilton struggled. But the facts don't tend to bear out the "dastardly" theory.

Then, of course, there was the manner in which Hamilton struggled again to get the best from his Mercedes' set-up. Just as in Russia, Bottas' car was slightly better behaved. And again that may have been down to the individual adjustments each driver can make, over and beyond general set-up, things such as the settings of the electronic differential.

Hamilton, who has so often dominated this race, was literally all at sea, simply unable to get his car to operate within the temperature window of Pirelli's ultrasoft tyres.

In the race he was quick on the supersofts, but said again that his was "not a happy car" in Monaco.

"I was devastated," he admitted. "Of course I can't afford another weekend like this, where the Ferraris are quick. But just because you can't afford something, it doesn't mean it's not going to happen. There is no point dwelling on the fact that you cannot afford it. You just work towards trying to rectify whatever issues you have and hope that you don't come across it again."

There's been a fair bit of head scratching in Brackley, the Mercedes headquarters, already this season. And assuredly there will be a lot more, now that Ferrari have Mercedes on the ropes.

The other major surprise was Jenson Button. Many expected him to be destroyed by Stoffel Vandoorne, as he had not driven a 2017 high-grip car previously. Instead, he virtually matched the Belgian throughout practice and actually outqualified him.

We are left wondering just what he might have achieved had he not incurred those Honda-related grid- place penalties, and instead started from his rightful place. And it was a shame that his race was one of frustration and an unhappy ending.

But as he now aims for a different kind of world championship in triathlons, he can do so knowing that he not only went out with honour and dignity, but with head held high after reminding doubters of his true talent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2017, with the headline 'Little data to support theory that Finn was deprived of win'. Print Edition | Subscribe