Kimi Raikkonen has come in for a scathing attack from the Italian media following another lacklustre performance in the Hungarian Grand Prix last weekend – being described variously as 'a pale imitation of the driver of the past' and 'not the driver Ferrari needs'.
The defending Formula 1 World Champion has now not triumphed in seven races, putting the defence of his hard-won 2007 crown in distinct jeopardy, with both McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa seeming to be in considerably better shape than the Finn as the 2008 campaign races towards its conclusion.
Since Raikkonen's second – and thus far latest – victory of the season in Barcelona all the way back in April, the 28-year-old has notched up just 28 points, compared to the 42, 36 and 30 of title rivals Hamilton, Massa and Robert Kubica respectively.
Though he may have lucked into a rostrum finish with third place in Budapest, the 17-time grand prix winner failed to convince weekend-long, qualifying a lowly sixth and spending the first two-thirds of the race tucked up behind Fernando Alonso's markedly slower Renault – a fact not lost on the notoriously merciless and fickle Italian press.
'He seems a pale imitation of the driver of the past,' blasted national sports newspaper Tuttosport
. 'This Raikkonen is not the driver that Ferrari needs. He needs to ask himself whether he really still has the desire.'
For his part, the erstwhile world championship leader has responded to claims that he is likely to hang up his F1 helmet at the end of the current campaign, second title in the bag or not.
“I never said anything like that,” he stressed. “Somebody made it up.”
There were rather warmer words, meanwhile, for Massa, who – against the odds – dominated the race around the Hungaroring, from his superbly aggressive pass all the way around the outside of pole-sitter Hamilton at the start to his cruel retirement with engine failure whilst in a commanding position a scant three laps from the chequered flag.
'What more can Ferrari ask of its driver?' the respected La Gazzetta dello Sport