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Can Kimi win again?

Kimi Raikkonen has won four times at Spa - but not since 2009.
By Ben Edwards
C4F1 commentator

For some race fans that I know,  the answer to the question in the headline may be very short and begin with ’n’ .

Kimi Raikkonen’s last victory in Formula One came at the Australian Grand Prix of 2013 when he was driving for the Lotus team, the Enstone-based oufit that has morphed back into Renault F1 in recent times. 

That victory was three-and-a-half years ago, and despite being with Ferrari since the start of 2014, he has been unable to add to his winning tally of 20, a number he shares with fellow Finn Mika Hakkinen. 

Arguably the closest Raikkonen has come was at Monaco this year when he earned a genuine pole position and led the first part of the race until Ferrari called him in before his teammate Sebastian Vettel, and as a result he lost his advantage. Similarly in Hungary last time out, he had the pace to pull away from Vettel but was never given the opportunity; it was all about giving the driver with the best chance in the title race every possible benefit.

As we go into the furiously busy last three months of the season, that objective will not change unless Vettel drops so far out of the reckoning that Raikkonen can no longer help. 

By announcing a year’s extension to Raikkonen’s contract, Ferrari have both rewarded his efforts to date and given him cause to carry on doing much the same in the future. His task for the remainder of this year will be to assist Vettel whenever he can, and to thwart Mercedes at every turn. 

Some would argue that he hasn’t done that effectively; after all, Valtteri Bottas is well ahead of him in the points and has generally done a better job by comparison. Perversely however, the success that Bottas has enjoyed has given Mercedes a bit of a headache. 

Bottas is still in with a shout at the title, and Mercedes pride themselves in allowing their drivers to race each other. Remember how we departed from Hungary, with Lewis Hamilton wondering if he had done the correct thing in allowing Bottas back into third place? Life is not as simple in that garage. 

Of course, who’s to say that Vettel will always be in a position to be helped? Here at Spa, the first corner is notorious for incident and last year the two Ferraris ended up hitting each other as a result of a racy move by Max Verstappen. Back in 2012 we saw an almighty shambles when Romain Grosjean flew over the top of Fernando Alonso and earned himself a race ban for Monza. 

At some point it is likely that Vettel will either drop out of a race or be taken out, and that will release Raikkonen from his obligations. Nobody on the current grid has won as many F1 races at Spa as Raikkonen. He is third on the all time list behind only Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna and his last-ever win at the wheel of a Ferrari was here in 2009. 

Last year the Finn out-qualified Vettel by a couple of tenths, and he displayed similar superiority on the high-speed sweeps of Silverstone just a few weeks ago. He can still deliver.

But to win here at Spa in anything other than a Mercedes is surely asking a huge amount. The Silver Arrows have been the dominant cars in Belgium since the current engine formula began in 2014, even if they did hand a win to Red Bull that year. 

Lewis Hamilton started at the back with engine penalties last season yet finished third and and he will be looking to produce a Canada or Silverstone style performance this weekend to re-energise his championship hopes. 

It’s not a foregone conclusion, because Pirelli have brought their softest tyres and while Hamilton did use them to great effect in Montreal there have been other events where Ferrari have been able to run longer stints on the more pliable rubber. Add the fact that rain is forecast for Sunday, and this becomes a much harder race to predict. Kimi for the win? Stranger things have happened…