Sorry, But Kimi Räikkönen’s Retirement Is Overdue
The charismatic Iceman has thawed.
Dear 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen: It's time to throw in the towel.
When you drove for Lotus at the end of the V8 era, you showed spunk, winning the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, and taking multiple podium finishes throughout the rest of the season. Since then, however, your career has stagnated. Your only noteworthy accomplishment since your last win was your pole at this year's Monaco Grand Prix, a pole you couldn't milk a win from, as your pace was not adequate to stave off your quicker teammate, Sebastian Vettel—on a street circuit where overtaking is nearly impossible. Even at last year's Spanish Grand Prix, when you were the fastest man on track, with only a one-stopping Verstappen standing between you and a win, your overeager passing attempts damaged your tires and ensured you wouldn't have enough grip left to pass the Dutchman, who said he felt like he was "driving on ice."
In addition to your own lack of race performance, you are now posing a threat to the performance of other drivers, as you have been at fault for numerous crashes since 2014 that cannot be described as anything other than boneheaded. In 2014, your crash at Silverstone while rejoining the track brought out a red flag. In 2015, your accidents are almost too numerous to count. In Russia, you overcooked an overtake on Bottas; in Austria, you speared Fernando Alonso on your nosecone, and in Mexico, you tried to apex though Bottas' car.
2016 wasn't much of an improvement, either. Monaco saw you crunch your own front wing and then block other drivers on your way off the track. In Brazil, you spun on the main straight and lunched your car, and in China, you somehow failed to notice two cars to your inside, and turned into your teammate, who was dodging the aggressive overtake of Daniil Kvyat. This year, you gave Bottas no room at turn one in Spain, despite the fact that your fellow Finn had the right to the inside line prior to turn-in, and bumped into him, before pushing Verstappen off too. Then you blamed Bottas.
So many at-fault accidents in a short period could be dismissed, provided you were fighting for something. But you just aren't any more—not for points, position, or even a little dignity. Your ambition is gone, you're willing to just play number two to your teammate. What kind of driver ascends to Formula One, the pinnacle of open wheel racing, gets a winning car, and then just thinks, "nah, I'll just help my teammate win?" Someone who has lost the mettle. Though you say you will only do this once the title is mathematically out of reach, you played this role just last weekend, in Austria, when you stayed out on frayed tires beyond their lifespan to hamper a competing Mercedes as much as possible.
It has now come to the point where your seat could benefit more fitting, more competitive drivers. Everyone from Sergio Perez to Antonio Giovinazzi, Charles Leclerc, Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso, and even Max Verstappen have been pitched as occupants of the Ferrari seat alongside Vettel. Every single one of these drivers offer a more interesting challenge to Vettel, even if we don't know how many could actually beat the four-time champion.
While your outpouring of comical mid-race quips has never slowed, it isn't enough to earn a seat at a top team. As much as we will miss hearing you on the radio, it's time to box and retire the car and hand the wheel to another driver. With your Ferrari contract expiring at the end of this year, and so many skilled drivers lining up for your seat, that decision may already be out of your hands.
Thank you for a memorable career, Kimi Räikkönen, but it really is time to put a cap on it. At last, I'll leave you alone. You know what to do.