Though the man himself has insisted that he is still very much in the fight for this year's Formula 1 World Championship crown with six races remaining [see separate story – click here
], Kimi Raikkonen has come in for criticism from a number of fronts in the wake of yet another lacklustre performance at the weekend.
The Finn's miserable mid-season run continued in Valencia, when he was forced out of the inaugural European Grand Prix to be held around the marina of Spain's third city with engine failure shortly after his second pit-stop – but even before that he had barely figured.
The defending world champion has now not triumphed since the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona almost four months ago, and in the eight intervening races has finished up on the podium on just three occasions.
What's more, he has been out-qualified by in-form Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa eight-four over the balance of the 2008 campaign to-date, and provoked debate once again at the weekend when he calamitously pulled away too hastily from his second pit-stop at the Juan Carlos I Marina circuit, dragging down and injuring his refuelling mechanic in the process.
“Kimi is really not with it,” remarked former three-time F1 World Champion Niki Lauda, who conversely admitted to having been impressed by Massa's burgeoning form, adding in an interview with German newspaper Bild
: “He seems totally focused and motivated. The world championship is now a duel of [Lewis] Hamilton against Massa.”
Indeed, the famously fickle Italian media seem to agree, suggesting that Ferrari should now focus their efforts on Massa's championship challenge – thereby necessarily casting Raikkonen into a supporting role.
'La Ferrari è Felipe Massa,' declared national daily newspaper La Stampa
, following the Brazilian's second commanding performance in as many outings to triumph in Valencia two days ago. The sentiment is telling: 'Ferrari is