F1 veteran Giancarlo Minardi believes that Kimi Raikkonen could be Fernando Alonso's biggest title threat during the second half of the season.
The veteran former team owner has been impressed with the Finn this year on his return to the sport and reckons he is one of five drivers' still in with a chance of winning the F1 2012 drivers' championship, along with, Alonso, of course, as well as, one assumes, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.
Raikkonen has yet to win in 2012, but has come close on a number of occasions, finishing on the podium five times - including taking three runners-up spots, the most recent in Hungary, just prior to the summer break, when hounded Hamilton to the chequered flag. The 'ice man' currently has 116 points on the board, 48 less than Alonso.
“Spa [the next race on the schedule] will be the real turning point to one of the most beautiful championships in recent years. To date we have not a real leader in terms of driver and car - and despite the fact [Fernando] Alonso is 40 points ahead, I think, it is premature to say the title is his,” Minardi said.
“There are five drivers' who could win the title still and the greatest danger could come from [Kimi] Raikkonen. Unfortunately, some results haven't gone his way and he needs to improve in qualifying too. But he is aggressive and consistent in his performance.
“It will be important [for all the teams] to have the best summer break [and] to develop new parts. Ferrari needs to find some more lap time and even though Red Bull Racing has lost some of its lustre [compared to 2011], it can count on the consistency of its two drivers unlike McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus.
“Alonso, [however], is in great shape and he has managed to take every opportunity, supported by a reliable Ferrari. It is this aspect that allows the Scuderia to concentrate 100 percent on the development of the car.”
As for his 'old' team, Minardi added that rumours technical director Giorgio Ascanelli has left [see separate story - HERE
] are concerning, although not entirely unexpected, given Red Bull's 'B' team has only scored 6 points this year and hasn't got into the points since Malaysia.
“There is trouble at home with Toro Rosso and I am sorry to see Giorgio Ascanelli is [officially] on 'holiday',” Minardi continued. “After last year, expectations are very different and now there will have to be a precise analysis of the changes needed for 2013. The clashes between team principal [Franz Tost] and the technical director [Giorgio Ascanelli] are synonymous with nervousness and, perhaps, the choices [made by Tost] are not always endorsed by the technical department.”