Yes, we know, the only rule about making predictions in F1 this year is ‘make no predictions’, but that’s not going to stop us. Kimi Raikkonen will win the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday. How do we know? Well in two practice sessions today, in which the returning champ got very little practice in, he was wearing a James Hunt replica helmet (as shown below). And the lid wasn’t any tie-in with the Ron Howard movie Rush, it was a just a tribute. From one cool guy to another. We like that.
“It’s not for any particular reason. I just like him and the kind of racing there was in the past,” said the Finn. “It’s a nice design. There’s not any more (to it) than that.”
This isn’t the first time Kimi’s doffed his lid to the 1976 World Champion racer, rabble-rouser and swordsman. He’s previously entered snowmobile racers (unsuccessfully) using Hunt’s name to hide his snowy tracks from then employers Ferrari, who never really approved of Raikkonen’s extra-curricular activities.
Lotus, meanwhile, we thought didn’t have any choice. When Kimi hurt himself snowmobiling before the comeback had even started, we all imagine he’d insisted on an ‘I’ll do what I want’ clause in the contract. However it seems not. This week Raikkonen let it be known he fancied getting back in the rally car that’s kept him busy during his 24-month sabbatical and taking on the Rally on Finland. The super-fast, super dangerous Rally of Finland.
Do we need to remind any TopGearers just why Raikkonen is in this year’s Lotus? It’s fair to say that had Robert Kubica not come close to killing himself on the Rally of Andorra in a Super 2000 Skoda in February 2011, Kimi might still be making up the numbers on the WRC. Like Kimi with Finland, Kubica wanted to do just for the fun.
Lotus was obliged to issue a very short statement yesterday to say Kimi would only be racing its F1 cars this year. Ahem.
Not that he had much chance to do that today. In sunny FP1 this morning Raikkonen did one lap, decided he did not like the steering very much, and parked his Lotus. Brave, maybe smart, there’s no point in even trying a fast lap around Monte Carlo unless you like the way a car steers. But when it rained this afternoon, we couldn’t help but wonder if he’d made things harder for himself. He’ll get just an hour of practice on Saturday morning before qualifying starts. He hasn’t raced here in two years, don’t forget.
But we still think he’ll win on Sunday. The Lotus E20 was one of three cars that looked so very precise, so very sharp, so very quick out of the slow corners, the others being the Ferrari F2012 and the other the McLaren MP4-27.
Jenson Button was the only driver to get a quick lap in before the gentle rain started in FP2, so you have to look to FP2 for any kind of guide... Alonso, Grosjean in the other Lotus, Perez in the Sauber (brave that, remember how hard he crashed here last year), Hamilton, Maldonado, Massa, Kobayashi, Button, Vettel and Rosberg were all less than a second apart. Schumacher was up next after some lairy laps and a something rather more than a kiss with the Armco.
We were kind of joking last time when we wondered whether Michael’s vision might not be the 20/20 you’d expect of a grand prix driver, but it now seems to be one of the threads of conversation in the paddock.
We’re not sure were right about that, but we have a very strong feeling about that famous lid taking the flag at Monaco for the first time...