F1 China 2013: Battle-scarred Kimi settles for second
14 April 2013
There was no question that as he lined up in second place on the grid for the start of the F1 Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, Kimi Raikkonen was eyeing up a Shanghai surprise of a win over polesitter Lewis Hamilton.
But that all went awry when the starting lights went out and Raikkonen's Lotus struggled to get away off the grid, allowing both of the Ferrari driver behind him to get the jump on him and go into the first corner in front, demoting Raikkonen himself to fourth place.
Even so, the team was hoping that this would be a temporary setback easily overcome over the course of the rest of the race: "We had an interesting start with Kimi dropping back, but once we got onto the prime tyres things went pretty smoothly," pointed out Alan Permane, the team's trackside operations director.
Smoothly, that is, until Raikkonen came up on the back of Sergio Perez' McLaren and duly tried to overtake the slower car through turn 5 on lap 16.
"After a bad start, the car was handling well," explained Raikkonen. "Overtaking Perez, I was next to him and he just pushed me on the kerb. I tried to avoid him and went on the grass and I hit him.
"I don't know if he could see me or how it happened, but there was no way for me to avoid it anymore as I was there next to him and ran out of road," he added. "It damaged the nose but luckily it didn't damage too much the handling, just a bit of understeer."
But Perez refuted the suggestion that the accident was his fault. "Basically Kimi outbraked himself and locked his tyres and hit me from behind," he said later. Race stewards investigating the incident decided that no action would be taken against either driver.
After the collision, Lotus decided to live with the damage to the aerodynamic components on Raikkonen's car and not lose time in the pits making a change, but it was not a cost-free decision.
"Kimi lost quite a bit of downforce with his front wing damage, otherwise he should have been able to challenge Fernando for the lead," suggested Pername. "We lost around 0.25 seconds per lap due to the damage to Kimi's car."
"It was quite difficult out there," admitted Raikkonen, who revealed that he'd wanted to get a new front wing but been talked out of it by the team. "I think they looked at the wing at the first pitstop and probably thought it would take too long.
"Obviously the car is not designed like that otherwise we would use it all the time, but I was surprised how good it was still," he added. "Of course, there were some handling issues which was not ideal, but we just had to try to live with it and we still had pretty okay speed."
After that it was a case of focussing on what was still possible with the battle-scarred car. Fernando Alonso was increasingly out of reach at the front, but Raikkonen had enough in hand over Lewis Hamilton to ensure second place, even before the Mercedes started to struggle with late tyre wear and then become further distracted holding off Sebastian Vettel in a fierce fight for third on the final lap.
"Second wasn't quite what we wanted, but in the circumstances it was the best that we could manage today," said Raikkonen. "I'm not 100% happy because we didn't win, but it is what it is and second place is a good result after a bad start and the incident with Sergio."
Meanwhile, Raikkonen's team mate Romain Grosjean had a subdued day in China, dropping from sixth place on the grid to ninth place at the chequered flag over the course of the race in Shanghai.
"It was a long, tough race and again we not able to make it work quite as well as we wanted - I'm definitely not happy with ninth place," he said. "Unfortunately we could not manage it. I did as much as I could, but I couldn't get the performance I wanted and being in traffic of course affects this."
"Romain had a more difficult day, but he scored points in another race which is positive," said Lotus team principal Eric Boullier. "We feel he's reached a turning point now where things will start coming together