Kimi Raikkonen is increasingly under scrutiny. The Finnish driver's recent performance in Canada has raised many doubts within Ferrari, and with a performance record below expectations so far (only one second place compared to a victory and four podiums in seven races for Vettel), his confirmation is becoming more uncertain. Ferrari's team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, continues to say:
"Kimi's future, as I've already mentioned, depends on results. If he achieves the goals we've set for him, why not consider keeping the same driver lineup in 2016? The goals are good performances and points. For Enzo Ferrari, the Constructors' World Championship was more important than the Drivers' Championship, and to achieve that, both drivers need to deliver results. I've had a direct conversation with Kimi, and he knows it very well: the more points he scores, the more likely he is to stay".
Arrivabene, for now, doesn't want to talk about replacements:
"For now, I'm only thinking about our two drivers, knowing that if needed, we can have a driver ready to jump into a Ferrari in a minute. That's not a problem; the problem is working with the drivers we have and making sure they perform at their best".
Reflecting on his experience in Maranello, Arrivabene admits:
"A chair is just a chair when you're focused on your work. It can be comfortable or not, but it depends on how you're working, not how you're sitting. Of course, I feel the responsibility, but if you remove the media pressure for a moment, it's a wonderful job. My dream for years was to return to Italy and do something for my country, and I was fortunate enough to find the best job Italy could offer me".
Arrivabene discusses the role of a team principal and his relationship with Marchionne:
"The team principal is not an engineer. Maybe they were many years ago, but if you look at Todt, Briatore, Horner, or Wolff, none of them is an engineer. You need to have a 360-degree approach and find the right balance between the engineering aspect and the budget. If you give engineers free rein, you'll quickly go bankrupt. Marchionne? Obviously, I keep him informed about everything; he's my boss. But the intensity of communication depends on the situation. Sometimes we don't talk for three or four days, other times we talk three or four times in the same day".
Regarding Ferrari's ambitions:
"I was clear at the beginning of the season: for 2015, the goal is to win at least three races, and next year, we aim to compete for the title. I have no doubts about it, and we're working hard for it. The rest of the season? I'm not looking for signs in the sky for the future, but obviously, I don't like losing, and the team doesn't like it either. We want to win, but Mercedes has done a great job. They deserved the title last year and deserve to be where they are now. We need to be realistic and do our best to try to make them a bit less happy".
Finally, in response to Alonso, who explained that he left Ferrari because he was tired of always finishing second:
"People can say whatever they want. It wasn't very nice, but I don't care".
Sebastian Vettel believes in his chances. And he doesn't hide it, even in front of microphones, notebooks, and cameras. On the eve of the Austrian Grand Prix, the German driver is very optimistic about the possibility of winning again, as he did in Malaysia.
"At Ferrari, we always aim to fight for victory. We have a competitive package, and if everything goes right, we could be up there, especially on Saturdays. But we also have to be realistic. To challenge Mercedes, we need a perfect weekend, hoping they struggle a bit. But in a normal race, it will be difficult to beat them because there's still a considerable gap; they are still the favorites".
So, prompted by questions, the driver from the Maranello team returns to his impressive comeback in the Montreal race, starting from the back and finishing third.
"It was more exciting than the previous races. Normally, when you start from the back, you pass slower cars, and in the end, when I found a stable position, I could push more and gain points, avoiding the possible risks in the chaos of the early laps".
Nevertheless, Vettel is optimistic about the possibility of getting closer to Mercedes before the end of the season.
"We've done an incredible job if you look at the winter tests and where we are now. We're closer, but it's not easy because Mercedes is a strong team, and they have also improved, introducing a new engine specification. But we hope to get closer in the later part of the season. We're giving it our all, but we mustn't forget that we're competing against one of the best teams in recent years, and they're making progress to maintain the gap that makes their races more comfortable".
Finally, addressing the rumors linking fellow German Nico Hulkenberg to Ferrari, especially after his impressive victory with Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Vettel avoids the question:
"To be honest, I don't read much Formula 1 news; I follow other sports more. Regarding Nico's victory, I would say it's fantastic for him, a great triumph, something that no one can take away from him. We in the paddock are a bit envious, but we respect him. As for the rest of the stories, I don't know".
Nico Rosberg also looks ahead with confidence and avoids making comparisons with the past season when he began to lose ground to his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who eventually won his second world championship title, the first with Mercedes.
"I don't think about the past; for me, the present counts, and lately, I must say it's been going quite well. Except in Canada, where I didn't do too well because I lost, but I feel good, and I'm very optimistic about this race where I won last year. We have an excellent car, which is performing well, constantly improving, and is even better than the 2014 version. The 24 Hours of Le Mans? I'm not thinking about racing at Le Mans".
Recently, Daniel Ricciardo expressed his frustration with the less successful season with Red Bull, sparking rumors of a possible early departure. However, the Australian driver dismisses this hypothesis.
"I expressed some frustration in Canada, going from what was the best day of my life last year to this season. But when I got home, I evaluated the weekend: I'm with Red Bull, and I would like to get back on the top step of the podium with them and solve all the problems".
Most likely, in the Red Bull Ring race, a new Renault power unit, the fifth, will be fitted to his car, incurring a ten-place grid penalty.
"We'll probably change it. We still need to decide by tonight what to do: either we'll take a penalty here, or if not here, it will be at Silverstone. We have to try to give our best, taking advantage of the opportunities we have. Now we need to focus on improvement. There are updates coming, but like in all things, it takes time. I need to have a bit more patience and make the most of the weekend, putting the Canada race behind me".
Famous and successful, idolized by the public. For Bernie Ecclestone, he is the perfect World Champion. A record collector, the reigning champion, often unbeatable with his Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton, if he secures pole position in Austria, will equal Sebastian Vettel's 45 poles.
"It would be beautiful, but in terms of the race, since overtaking is difficult here. These records don't serve any purpose; I only keep track of the World Championships".
So why do you have two stars on your helmet?
"There are two titles, but I would like to add more soon. Last season, I felt a lot of pressure on my shoulders, the fear of not being able to win again. The final triumph lifted a weight off me".
In 2015, you often dominated everyone, including your teammate Nico Rosberg.
"I can't explain why I had that dominance; it's not that simple, but it's true that in the third year, my connection with the car is at its peak. The Mercedes from the previous season was strong, and this one is even stronger. It seemed impossible, but we managed to improve even more. When you change cars, go from McLaren to another team, it's normal to need time to adapt. I expected that, but the adjustment was quick".
At the beginning of 2013, some criticized your decision to join Mercedes.
"The facts have proven me right. This is the ideal team for me; it doesn't overwhelm me and allows me complete freedom in my personal life, which allows me to give my best on the track. I only have to think about driving, doing it to the best of my ability. Make no mistake, the team works with great professionalism, and I trust them blindly".
Even in situations like the one in Monte-Carlo?
"Mistakes can happen; that's water under the bridge. In Canada, we drew a line, started from scratch, and immediately returned to winning."
The relationship is so perfect that you recently extended your contract for another three years.
"I'm thirty, and I don't see myself in any other team. I've been taught not to predict the future, so never say never. But when I think about my destiny, saying Mercedes for life is the most concrete hypothesis".
To the dismay of Ferrari fans...
"Ferrari is a closed chapter. I have fun with Mercedes, and the excellent relationship that has developed is good for my balance. I know some people criticize my life outside the circuit, always traveling the world. But that's how I am; I can't be confined; I have to be hyperactive every day. I love roaming around Colorado with my two dogs, Coco and Roscoe, and my brother Nicolas. I enjoy skiing, as I often do in Austria. I seamlessly switch from a fashion show to a stay in some mountain country, where I remember my childhood, where I don't see houses or cars in front of me. I choose my world, where to be. Mercedes allows me to do that without constraints, and all of this makes me happy".
Besides, you seem to be well-liked, with your fashionable appearance, even by Ecclestone.
"When he said that, he was comparing me to Vettel: me among the VIPs, him with family. We're two different characters; it doesn't seem like an important detail. Besides, I like it when people in the USA ask me what job I do. I don't have the popularity anxiety. I say: I'm an F1 driver. And they say: how nice that must be. Then we all laugh together. In Europe, it would be impossible".
Like it used to happen with Senna.
"A legend, a role model to follow. I can't imagine my life without F1. My mother says: don't cry when you quit. I'm already thirty, nine years of racing have flown by. I would continue indefinitely".
Do you have any problems with racism?
"Not anymore. At the beginning, as a child, on the kart tracks, many white kids insulted me, but I enjoyed beating them on the track. Then in 2008, there was the incident in Spain, but much of it was due to rivalry with Alonso. Now I'm accepted by everyone, but I know that in other sports, it's not the same. In football, there's a lot of racism. It's hard to fight because it's difficult to change the minds of ignorant people".
Your relationship with other sports?
"I follow football, but rugby is even better. No frills, just all-out action".
Can you imagine a dream moment?
"I would listen to music: U2, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder. But I go into ecstasy only with Pavarotti".
On Friday, June 19, 2015, in the first practice session, both Mercedes drivers were fastest, with Nico Rosberg being three-tenths of a second faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Räikkönen's Ferrari was the only other car to get within one second of the Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel's other Ferrari set the slowest lap time due to a gearbox problem, limiting him to just four laps. Fernando Alonso's McLaren also faced gearbox issues but managed to return to the track later in the session after repairs. The McLaren team had introduced a new aerodynamics package for the race in Spielberg, which Alonso tested and found to be an improvement.
Sebastian Vettel rebounded in the second practice session of the Austrian Grand Prix after experiencing a transmission problem that prevented him from running in the morning session. The Ferrari driver set the fastest time, narrowly edging out Nico Rosberg's Mercedes and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. However, Lewis Hamilton, the reigning world champion, struggled on the super-soft tires and made several mistakes, finishing fifth. Both Lotus cars made it into the top ten, with Pastor Maldonado in fourth and Romain Grosjean in seventh. Max Verstappen's Toro Rosso was the fastest Renault-powered car in eighth place, while the McLaren team faced challenges that led to them stopping their session early. Sebastian Vettel had a difficult afternoon session, as he experienced a gearbox issue that forced him back into the pits after only a couple of laps. Despite the issues, Vettel was satisfied and not concerned about Ferrari's reliability, stating that his race pace looked good. Referring to his inability to run with the Soft tires in race trim, something that his teammate Kimi Raikkonen was able to do, Vettel said:
"Kimi seems to have a good pace, and we'll see from his runs. My situation is not ideal, but I'm not worried about reliability. Today, two negative things happened simultaneously, and we'll try to test tomorrow".
Sebastian Vettel is aiming to end his three-year, 55-race pole position drought, which began after July 21, 2012, in Hockenheim. The Austrian Grand Prix could provide the right opportunity after setting the fastest time in the last practice session. Vettel proudly said:
"We are close to the Mercedes, and qualifying promises to be interesting".
However, there are some clouds on the horizon. Not so much the predicted rain, as Sunday's race is expected to be dry, but rather the two breakdowns that Ferrari had to endure, a half-shaft issue in the morning and a gearbox problem in the afternoon. These mechanical failures raised some concerns, but not for Vettel, who said:
"A sensor alerted us, and I had to slow down, but I don't believe there is anything to fear".
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg both acknowledged the speed of the Ferraris, with Rosberg second in the afternoon session and both drivers expressing their intent to find some extra tenths on the track. Kimi Raikkonen, despite setting the third-fastest time, made a mistake during his run, damaging his right-front tire. Ferrari's team principal, Arrivabene, had a close call when Felipe Massa braked suddenly in the pit lane and avoided a collision with Arrivabene. Sebastian Vettel once again topped the time charts in the third practice session on Saturday morning, narrowly edging out Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. However, the session faced interruptions, with Fernando Alonso stopping on the start/finish straight, causing a red flag. When practice resumed, rain started falling, preventing the drivers from improving their times. Only Sergio Pérez of Force India managed to set a lap time on the super-soft tires, placing fourth in the session. In the subsequent qualifying session (Q1), Kimi Räikkönen was eliminated due to a communication failure, which left him without enough time for another fast lap. As the track dried during qualifying, times improved with each lap, and drivers were able to switch from intermediate to slick tires by the end of the first session. Jenson Button was also eliminated in Q1, and he would face time penalties in the race, unable to serve his full 25-place grid penalty. In the dry conditions of Q2, the two Mercedes drivers were the fastest, with Rosberg outpacing Hamilton by four-tenths of a second. Fernando Alonso failed to advance to Q3, marking the seventh time that season he had missed the final part of qualifying. During the final part of qualifying (Q3), both Mercedes drivers set two fast laps. After the first run, Rosberg was ahead of Hamilton, but Hamilton improved on his second lap, edging out his teammate by two-tenths of a second. However, both drivers spun during their final flying laps, with Hamilton spinning in turn one and Rosberg in the final corner. As a result, the order remained unchanged, with Hamilton securing the 45th pole position of his career, tying with Sebastian Vettel, who qualified third.
Last year's pole sitter, Felipe Massa, secured fourth place, while Le Mans winner Nico Hülkenberg finished fifth, ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams. Hamilton expressed his happiness but acknowledged the challenging track conditions:
"It was a very difficult session for everyone due to the track conditions. I'm glad I managed to put in a good lap in Q3. I pushed hard on the first run, and then on the last run, I pushed too hard and went off track. I tried to go flat out, but at a certain point, I couldn't find a gear, and I lost time going off track".
In contrast to Hamilton's joy, Nico Rosberg expressed disappointment but was determined to make an aggressive race:
"I'm not sure what happened exactly. I ran a bit wide in the last corner, and there was some artificial grass with water. Maybe I also made a mistake because I pushed too hard. Tomorrow? Like in every race, I have to try to surprise the others at the start. Here in Austria, it's a bit easier because the first straight is longer. So I will try immediately; otherwise, it will be challenging to overtake later".
Sebastian Vettel wasn't entirely satisfied as he had hoped to get closer to the two Mercedes drivers:
"Once again, I thought I would be a bit closer to the Mercedes, but they were too fast. There's a lot of work to do, but overall, I'm happy with third place. We tried everything; we seemed competitive in all the practices, and we arrived well in qualifying. Although Q1 was complicated for everyone, we managed to get through. In general, the cars with Mercedes engines seem capable of increasing their performance, even the Williams were very close. I'm satisfied with the car; we did a great job thanks to the team. We should have an excellent car for the race as well. We have a very fast car, and I felt very comfortable in the car this morning. Tomorrow could be a different story; we hope. This track requires a strong push throughout the weekend, Nico and Lewis did it, making some mistakes in practice, but that's normal. Hopefully, tomorrow they will have to push to the limit. Usually, those who make no mistakes do well in the race, and if you're the fastest, you win".
Kimi Raikkonen, on the other hand, expressed disappointment:
"A really bad Saturday. Obviously, tomorrow, we will do our best, and we'll see where we end up".
Raikkonen believed he had another lap left but found out otherwise:
"Yes, but evidently, it wasn't the case".
The contrast between the two Ferrari drivers was stark, with Vettel remaining hopeful and Raikkonen frustrated. The Austrian Grand Prix took place on a track where overtaking is challenging, making the qualifying results even more crucial. Mercedes continued to dominate the front row, with Hamilton securing pole position for the 45th time in his career, equalling Sebastian Vettel's record. Hamilton remarked on the shared pole record with Vettel, stating:
"Tied with Vettel? I'd like to have his four World Championships".
Hamilton has two World Championships to his name and is aiming to add more to his tally with his strong performance. On Sunday, June 21, 2015, at the beginning of the Austrian Grand Prix, Rosberg made a good start and passed his teammate Hamilton to take the lead as they entered turn one. Exiting the next turn, Kimi Räikkönen struggled with heavy wheelspin on his harder tyre compound while racing side by side and drifted to the outer edge of the track, colliding with Fernando Alonso's McLaren, which ended up on top of the Ferrari.
Both drivers were able to walk away from the incident unharmed. The collision resulted in the deployment of the safety car. Towards the end of that lap, Daniil Kvyat pitted to replace a damaged front wing, while Will Stevens retired from the race due to an oil leak. When the safety car returned to the pit lane at the end of the sixth lap, Rosberg successfully defended his lead against Hamilton and quickly established a gap, leading by 2.3 seconds by the eleventh lap. On the twelfth lap, the second McLaren driven by Jenson Button retired due to an intake system sensor failure. By the sixteenth lap, Valtteri Bottas had regained sixth place, which he had lost at the start, from Max Verstappen. Hamilton began closing the gap to Rosberg in front. However, the German driver responded and extended his lead to four seconds by the twenty-seventh lap. Meanwhile, Bottas passed Le Mans winner Nico Hülkenberg for fifth place on the twenty-sixth lap, but an earlier pit stop allowed the German to regain the lead ahead of the Williams. Carlos Sainz Jr. received a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane, although this penalty was not applied as the Spaniard retired on lap 34 due to a technical problem. Before the front-runners made their pit stops, Lewis Hamilton managed to reduce the gap to 2.2 seconds by the thirty-second lap. When Rosberg made his pit stop one lap later, Hamilton took the lead. This also marked Hamilton's seventeenth consecutive race in which he had led at least one lap, equalling a record set by Jackie Stewart, who achieved the same feat between the 1968 United States Grand Prix and the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix. Hamilton made his pit stop on lap 35 and emerged from the pits behind his teammate, crossing the white pit exit line in the process. This resulted in a five-second time penalty added to his final race time. Sebastian Vettel made his pit stop two laps later but experienced a delay of more than 13 seconds due to a problem with the wheelnut on his rear right tire. He rejoined the race behind Felipe Massa in fourth place. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean retired due to gearbox issues. Vettel closed the gap to Massa, who held the final podium position, but ultimately couldn't pass the Brazilian, giving Massa his first podium finish of 2015. Towards the end of the race, Pastor Maldonado battled Max Verstappen for seventh place. While passing the start/finish straight, Maldonado nearly lost control of his car while emerging from the Toro Rosso's slipstream, while Verstappen locked up entering turn one, allowing the Lotus driver to take the position. Rosberg, who complained about front tire vibrations in the final laps, crossed the finish line three seconds ahead of his teammate Hamilton, securing his third victory of the season and his second consecutive win at Spielberg, narrowing his deficit in the championship to ten points. Nico Rosberg's perfect day unfolds in just a few meters. It takes a moment, and the deed is done. Leading at the first corner and at the finish line, a victory in Austria like last year, a third win of the season, and the World Championship race wide open again, especially as his rival, Lewis Hamilton, now only has a 10-point advantage.
"It's a truly fantastic feeling to win here again; the start decided my race. Yes, it was a great start, and then I managed to defend in the first corners, after which I just tried to push to the maximum. I was really pleased with the car; I liked seeing the gap to Lewis increasing: it was the perfect day. I'm happy; it went well, a great battle in the first three corners. I'm also happy to have been the fastest in the race; that was certainly an area I needed to work on since last year, and this year it's going much better, which pleases me a lot".
Regarding the start, Nico doesn't forget to acknowledge the team's efforts:
"I have to thank my engineer because he set the clutch in that way. And it was very important".
Speaking of the significant vibrations in the front tires, the German driver admits:
"Yes, they were a bit annoying; I used the front tires so much that the front started to vibrate, and that worried me a bit, but then it stabilized, and there was no problem. It was graining on the front right. It's very difficult to predict when it comes, and I think I suffered more than Lewis. Anyway, I was confident I could stay ahead because the one who stops earlier then has new tires to push and reopen the gap".
The splendid Sunday blessed a quick reaction time and a perfectly functioning clutch, especially since the other half of the Mercedes duo, star Lewis, moved at a sloth's pace, describing his start as amateurish. Hamilton acknowledged his rival's achievement.
"Congratulations to Nico, he did a fantastic job. I, on the other hand, had a terrible start. After the pit stop, I just focused on bringing the car to the finish. I had a bad start, then I pushed as hard as I could, but Nico was fantastic, consistently faster than me throughout the race, especially in the second sector. After the pit stop, I only thought about maintaining the gap to the finish line. There was no catching today's Nico".
Losing the race at the start clearly upset the British driver:
"I changed something after Barcelona, tried to make the best start I could, but it had the opposite effect. Making a mistake by running wide and leaving space for those behind is a different disappointment. Today, I found myself in a situation where I couldn't do anything to improve it. Usually, I used to start better than Nico, but now the roles are reversed, and on a track like this where overtaking is difficult, I didn't have many opportunities to rectify my starting error".
Today, the victorious Mercedes (although they always celebrate) belonged to Rosberg, despite encountering brake problems towards the end, causing some concern and a noticeable slowdown. To complete the nightmarish weekend, as the protagonist puts it, Raikkonen only needed two corners. Despite a pep talk from President Marchionne, who arrived two hours before the race, making a quick blitz from the Pope to Ferrari, from Turin by private plane to Vienna, and then by helicopter to Zeltweg, Kimi couldn't turn things around:
"He has the class to make a comeback. As for confirmation, it all depends on him. It's his choice. Deliver results or surrender".
Raikkonen's race was effectively over after not even a kilometer. Wheels spinning, the car veering to the left, Kimi losing control, running wide, and inevitably colliding with Alonso. It was a spine-chilling accident as Alonso's McLaren ended up on the Ferrari's back, just inches from the Finn's neck. Fernando, speaking about the incident, said:
"I was scared for Kimi, luckily, he's unharmed, and I also feared for myself, but I'm not to blame. They were passing him on both sides, and I found myself right in front of him. There was nothing I could do".
Raikkonen also absolved Alonso when they met after the race, with the Finn admitting:
"I didn't lose control because I was hit; Alonso was far behind. I lost control before, and I don't know why. Was I scared during the accident? No, because I didn't realize anything until I suddenly had his McLaren on top of me".
Kimi Raikkonen commented on the incident in which he and Fernando Alonso were involved in the first lap of the Austrian Grand Prix, forcing both of them to retire.
"It's all okay; checks were mandatory, but the best news is that both of us are fine. It was a strong and spectacular accident from the outside".
Fernando Alonso also commented on the first-lap incident with Kimi Raikkonen, saying:
"I was five or six meters behind him when he had a lot of wheelspin and then lost the car to the left. I was there, and we went into the wall. Fortunately, nothing happened, especially to him, as I passed very close to his head".
The mystery surrounding the incident with Raikkonen remains, and Ferrari ruled out any similarities with Montreal (the throttle mapping in the first 90 seconds of driving) but also technical issues, leaving the judgment pending. What is clear, however, is a sense of coldness, with Arrivabene expecting results from Raikkonen. So far, he has achieved very little, and Marchionne left the circuit immediately after the race, shaking his head. He can't be happy, except in the prospect of making money by selling engines to Red Bull (he admitted offering them) because this time, at least in terms of results, he also let down Vettel, who dropped off the podium due to a stripped nut and the crucial 10 seconds lost in the pits. Felipe Massa took advantage, and the German chased him relentlessly but had to settle for fourth place. A bitter smile:
"It's human; mistakes can happen. The rear right had an issue. Sometimes things go this way; our guys are usually the best, but these are races. There's some bitterness because I wanted to get on the podium. We had a great race pace, but overall, I think we're closer to Mercedes, even if the result doesn't show it. I have good feelings".
Only Arrivabene can express regrets. It used to be all aluminum, but it was decided to switch to a combination with titanium, and the nut broke.
"Not criticism, but solutions".
They will return to the old nuts, hoping to restore old habits, with Ferrari back on the podium, as they were in the first six races, unlike the last two.
"We threw away a podium because of a stripped nut. Pressure shouldn't create confusion; we need to move forward and look at the next race with even more determination. We've seen the images, and even from those, it's not clear. We saw Fernando's car on top of Kimi's; now we'll hear from him. What will I tell the guys? To keep going and not stop at all because the fact that two races have gone like this doesn't mean we should be discouraged, quite the opposite. We need to keep going and do even more".
Months counted, or perhaps it would be better to say races counted. Only three, no more, that can secure Raikkonen a contract renewal, perhaps due more to the lack of viable alternatives than to the Finnish driver's actual merits. Great Britain, Hungary, and Belgium, a track he loves, are the appointments Kimi cannot afford to miss if he wants to stay with Ferrari. Sergio Marchionne was clear enough:
"It all depends on him; the renewal is his choice. Either he delivers results, or he's forced to give up".
So, the decision is not entirely voluntary. Who would say no to a lucrative contract with Ferrari? But it's tied to performance, not necessarily victories but at least podiums, a feat achieved only once so far, in Bahrain. It depends on his performance, something Arrivabene has emphasized since the beginning of the season. The team principal has never been in a hurry, and even now, he pushes the boundaries of the decision further ahead:
"He knows what we expect from him: focus, speed, results. It's too early to do the math; we'll take stock at the end of the summer".
In other words, after Belgium, but perhaps not after Monza, when Ferrari will be at the peak of its development to achieve a prestigious victory. In September, we will understand if Raikkonen has managed to change his fate, finally becoming competitive in qualifying (the comparison with Vettel is harsh, seven to one in eight Saturdays for the fastest lap) and consistent in the race, where he sometimes sets the fastest lap of the day, but it often amounts to little or nothing. In Great Britain, where Ferrari arrives with high hopes, Raikkonen must seek redemption, then persist in Hungary and complete the mission in Belgium, a circuit where he has won even when Ferrari was struggling. He has no more alternatives; the nightmare weekend in Austria has erased his credit. It's true that the contenders for his throne are beginning to harbor hopes, even though they know they'll have to fight against odds that currently threaten to stifle the pros. There are three potential contenders: Bottas, a Williams driver, Ricciardo, from Red Bull, and Hulkenberg, who finished sixth in Austria with the small Force India team. The first is Finnish like Raikkonen, and he also has the same unexpressive face. He secured the only podium of the season in Montreal, but so far, he hasn't repeated last year's brilliant season with Williams (he was outperformed by his teammate Massa in Austria). He's young, talented, but he carries two handicaps: to release him from Williams, Ferrari would have to pay a penalty, and his manager is Toto Wolff, who also heads the Mercedes team. Is it wise to share the secrets of the new Ferrari, the 2016 version, with someone managed by an individual working for the main competitors? The situation for Daniel Ricciardo is even more complicated. He's under contract with Red Bull, but an agreement might be found here, considering that Sergio Marchionne would like to supply engines to the Anglo-Austrian team. However, it would be more challenging to convince Sebastian Vettel to accept a new teammate, especially after their conflicts during their time at Red Bull in 2014. At this point, the favorite becomes Nico Hulkenberg. He's a free agent, German like Sebastian Vettel, and he has just won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His name may not set the fans' hearts on fire, but he's certainly a better option than the current Kimi Raikkonen.