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Why Portimão and Imola prove Raikkonen still deserves his F1 seat

Why Portimão and Imola prove Raikkonen still deserves his F1 seat

F1 News

Why Portimão and Imola prove Raikkonen still deserves his F1 seat

Why Portimão and Imola prove Raikkonen still deserves his F1 seat

The prime years of Kimi Raikkonen's career may be behind him but the 2007 world champion has shown over the past two races exactly why he will remain at Alfa Romeo for next season.

A start in Portimão to rival Ayrton Senna's Donington Park 'lap of the Gods' in the 1993 European Grand Prix was followed a week later by a 'driver-of-the-day' performance that has shown the Iceman still has - as Ross Brawn described in his weekly F1 column - "that Finnish fire in his belly".

Raikkonen just missed out on claiming a point in Portugal where he finished 11th, but in Imola, he secured a superb ninth ahead of team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi

That result followed just days after it was announced Raikkonen would be staying with the team heading into what will be his 19th season in Formula 1, 20 years after he made his debut with the same team when it was then known as Sauber.

Even with the speculation surrounding Ferrari's young driver academy prospects making the step up to F1, it was always Giovinazzi who was being pencilled in as the man to step aside for either Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott or Robert Shwartzman.

If there were any doubts regarding the decision to retain both drivers, then a double-points finish at Imola has, in part, quelled such thoughts.

With Raikkonen, in particular, his performances are even more remarkable when you consider the car he has beneath him.

Alfa Romeo's performance deficit can clearly be seen in qualifying as Raikkonen has only reached Q2 on three occasions this season, matching the number of times he has qualified last.

But the racecraft he has shown since stepping into the sport almost two decades ago remains strong.

Despite the qualifying deficiencies, Raikkonen's worst result - other than a DNF in the first race of the season in Austria - was 17th in the British Grand Prix after a front-wing failure.

More often than not, the Finn has been lurking at the tail end of the midfield, sniffing out opportunities to snatch points and ironically, battling again with former Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

Now at the ripe old age of 41, Raikkonen has made just one major error this season, missing a braking zone at the Nürburgring during the Eifel Grand Prix - where he secured the record for most races starts - and harpooning George Russell out of the race.

Raikkonen went on to finish 12th, just two seconds behind ninth-placed Romain Grosjean. Without a doubt, the 10-second time penalty he served at a pitstop for causing a collision cost him another two points.

At Mugello in the Tuscan GP, Raikkonen showed his resilient side. After sustaining damage in a first lap melée and at one stage being a lap down, he made the most of a red-flag restart to finish ninth.

It is likely he would also have scored points in the curtain-raiser at the Red Bull Ring but for a wheel falling off in the latter stages of the race.

Many drivers point to a lack of motivation as a key aspect when it comes to either changing teams or retiring. You have to wonder where Raikkonen's motivation comes from given his age, the fact he has a family and he is driving for a mid-to-back-of-the-grid team.

But as Raikkonen said when announcing his new contract: "So many of the faces that were around me when I made my Formula One debut in 2001 are still here and the unique atmosphere of this team is what gives me that extra motivation to keep going in what will be my 19th season in the sport, next year."

Add to that the fact Raikkonen claimed the sport is "more of a hobby" to him at the beginning of last season, and you can start to see exactly why he is an evergreen figure in the paddock.

When will he leave? We don't know. As long as he is driving like this, we are sure Alfa Romeo will wish to keep hold of him.

Before you go...

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