Why Kimi was not on top of his game in 2008?
Here is what I think (little research project):
The period between April-July 2008 is probably one of the worse periods not only in Kimi's F1 career but probably in his life. All his life he and his family believed in hard work and doing their best to achieve good things on merit. In Kimi's case this means putting his natural talents to best use in performing, and winning races...
Backdrop for 2008... The guy just won WDC the previous year, and he is already leading in points 4 races into the 2008 season. Life is good...
(April 27 2008), FIA post-race press conf after winning Spain -- Kimi - “It was a perfect weekend for us in Barcelona,” explained Raikkonen. “We were going really fast all the time and we didn't have the slightest problem. Many times I have won and afterwards still had the feeling that it could have gone better. This time I did not have that feeling: this was probably the best weekend I've ever had in my career.”
the guy won Spain just 3 days ago... then, all of a sudden PR stuff & "rumors" kicked in... I am not sure who started them but the mission was to melt the iceman because it would be a terrible PR to get rid of a 2 times WDC, in the event that he managed to win the 2nd one in 2008. In the following, partially narrated timeline I tried to put the main news item with the earliest appox. date of first showing up (in google news based on article posting date) out of 100s or 1000s regurgitated ones for each item... they give a good glimpse into what was in Kimi's mind as he was facing psychological PR war, aside from racing issues during 2008... also pay attention to all dates because technically none of these supposedly happened in 2008, but in 2009...
May, 1 2008 -- LdM:Massa's future with the team is secure. It will be too damaging to partner Alonso with Kimi. Keke Rosberg:Kimi has to make way for Alonso... Dom:Kimi is motivated from head to toe, and I know he is not thinking about retiring." here.
note: you can tell, they have been talking about Santander coming in as the new long term sponsor but the plan is to not to talk about it externally... this is the first time appearance of Kimi's "motivation" by Dom. It is not yet used in a negative way but it is a crucial PR keyword because at this point they cannot start talking about Kimi's performance... as he is in the lead, but this is the decision point that he has to go. Also note the disconnect between LdM & Dom's statements. Yes, the date is correct May 1 2008, and instead of talking about the win 3 days ago they are forced to answer questions about driver line-up.
May, 8 2008 -- Niki Lauda "Last year Raikkonen was champion and now he is number one. Why must we now discuss whether Alonso is going to go there? They already have the perfect team with Massa, so why should they bang their heads together?"
Note:this is an honest statement by Lauda wondering WTF is going on... as there is significant chatter inside the F1 world... here
May, 24 2008 -- Alonso signs for Ferrari -- The word in the F1 paddock in Monte Carlo is that Fernando Alonso has just inked a deal to drive for Ferrari in 2010. No confirmation is expected for a year, and there may be denials of any arrangement, as there would obviously be some serious knock-on effects for other parties in the F1 paddock. here
Note: Spanish press is going nuts over this as well .. use google news with date filters. Emphasis: do not confirm and deny until next year -- which they did...
June, 6 2008 -- FIA interview -- Kimi: “I still have a contract until the end of next year,” Raikkonen said during the press conference ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Thursday. “I haven’t made any decision as to whether I will keep going or not. That’s the last contract I have and we will wait and see during this year and next year what happens.” “I haven’t made my mind up and we will see.”
Note: (this is the GP Ham rear ended Kimi) -- why would this contract issue come up in the FIA press conference? ...you can tell internal discussions about his departure is well underway... yet we are only 7 races into the season...
July, 10 2008 -- July 10 2008 -- According to popular German magazine Sport Bild, it would seem that Spanish bank Santander would be moving from sponsoring McLaren to become one of Ferrari’s top sponsors from 2009 onwards. The big bank would have their adverts on the front and rear wings, alongside lettering on the drivers overalls. Ferrari have been touting for a new top sponsor since cigarette advertisers were not allowed in many countries, Marlboro being the major backer for many years. With a contract with Marlboro still in place, hash markings would still be on the cars. For the Scuderia though, Santander have said the major condition of their deal is that former World Champion Fernando Alonso would drive for the team. He won’t confirm his future, and will not comment until September. here
Note: Santander-Ferrari-Alonso deal is done but negotiations with Kimi are in full force... look at the desired date for the sponsorship... Now, how did Alonso come up with that September date , unless he did read Kimi's contract and familiar with the performance / and renewal options Kimi could exercise??? That is an accidental slip up by him because September date was significant only to Kimi's contract. He cannot comment on what will happen because they do not know what Kimi will do yet... as Ferrari is still negotiating (see Sep 12 news, in the following)...
Aug, 3 2008 FIA post-race int. Hungary -- Q: People are talking about you retiring, not necessarily at the end of this year but at the end of next year. Are there any thoughts on that?
KR: I never said anything like that. I only said that I have a contract until the end of next year and then somebody made up that I will stop at the end of this year or the end of next year, but I never said that.
Note: Guess who is propagating retirement rumors? This is a pretty major PR war against Kimi... and they are wearing him out. you know, all by itself, it is pretty hard to fight for WDC when you have full support from the team...
Aug, 24 2008 FIA post-race int. -- Massa -- “My win in Valencia moves me ahead of Kimi into second place in the championship. I’ve been asked if I feel Ferrari should favour me for the title since there are just six races remaining. All I can say is that I want to keep winning, to keep beating not just my teammate (Kimi Raikkonen) but others too,” Massa was quoted as saying on the Ferrari website. The Brazilian, who is on 64 points, six behind the leader Lewis Hamilton, further added that he has got nothing to do with such decisions. “I just do the best possible job for the team and leave the rest to the management,” he added. Raikkonen is third on the table with 57 points. Meanwhile, Kimi has rubbished the claim that he lacks motivation. “Next week, we will go to Spa (venue of the next Grand Prix). I love this track. I will give it all to win again. If someone has doubt as far as my motivation is concerned: go ahead. I want to win. More than ever,” he said on the Ferrari website.
Note: Since April, Kimi's lack of motivation stories have been propagating into millions of articles, blog and forum posts... (google is your friend...). Motivation is the keyword because they still cannot talk about performance ...
Sep, 12 2008 -- Ferrari confirm Raikkonen to end of 2010 -- Ferrari have announced an extension to Kimi Raikkonen’s contract for a further two seasons, keeping the world champion with the Italian team until the end of 2010. With Raikkonen’s team mate Felipe Massa also under contract for that period, it means Ferrari’s race line-up will remain unchanged until at least the start of their 2011 campaign. Raikkonen joined Ferrari from McLaren last season, while Massa has been with the team since 2006. The announcement should end media speculation suggesting that Raikkonen may retire at the end of this season. here
Note: This is a automatic contract renewal option Kimi is exercising to increase the Santander/Ferrari payout based on exceeding his performance benchmarks on his contract. He knows he is done with Ferrari... and if he could find a way, he could have left by the end of 2008... he is loosing the PR war, but trying to secure finances in negotiations...
Sep, 14 2008 -- FIA post race int. Monza -- Raikkonen. ““You don't have to be Einstein to understand that this is not the right way to fight for the title, It's not over yet, but now it will take a miracle, like one that makes lightning strike twice.”
Note: he is not just talking about racing here... even though he is still within mathematical possibility with 4 races left in the calendar (he is 20 pts behind Massa), better odds than 2007; he is up to his neck in the swamp trying to fight/fend off elegators in multiple fronts,
1) Santander/Ferrari lawyers ...
2) His relationship with Michael... it was never emphasized in 2008 but I think it was a very significant issue... For 2008, Michael's role was, per LdM: "official 3rd driver, in charge of car development". See footnote 1 (and check out Michael's Ferrari and wiki profile for his role in 2008). Kimi did not like this at all because Michael was in charge of something (the car itself) he has been used to controlling/influencing all his career.
3) Pressure from LdM and Dom to help out Massa because if Massa wins 2008 WDC, Santander will be thrilled given their upcoming 2009 IPO in Brasil -- IMO, Dom or LdM never mandated this, but they highly encouraged Kimi to fall back because financial implications for Santander, the future sponsor, was in Billions of $ (not Millions, it is Billions) because Massa is a native son of Brasil who can mobilize local investors even better than Alonso... here. In the end, Santander's IPO gains were about $9 Billion. See footnote 2
Sep, 24 2008 - Pitpass --Spanish media is claiming that Ferrari's recent decision to re-sign Kimi Raikkonen until the end of 2010, is a smokescreen, aimed at putting everyone off the real story, which sees Fernando Alonso heading to Maranello as early as next year. Spanish newspaper Marca claims that Santander, which headed to McLaren with Fernando Alonso in 2007, is behind a move which will see the two-time champion join Felipe Massa. The Spanish banking giant is due to take its account to Ferrari next year, and, having lost out when Alonso quit McLaren after just one season, wants its national hero back on board and in a winning (red) car. It's claimed that the bank will not only meet Alonso's financial requirements but will also meet any compensation demanded by Raikkonen. It is fair to say that the announcement that Raikkonen is to stay with Ferrari for two more years caught many by surprise, especially since the Finn appears to have lost his sparkle in recent months, a situation not helped by the fact that he is now almost certain - barring a miracle recovery - of having to play second fiddle to his Brazilian teammate. While several teams, most notably Honda, have been wooing Alonso, the Spaniard needs to be back in a winning car, and other than BMW - which is backed by Santander's rival Credit Suisse - Ferrari appears to be the only option. --
Note: looks like negotiations for buying out 2009 failed, probably to Kimi's dismay -- from here on it is a Cold War in the team and Kimi is unofficial #2 by corporate decision because they still need to ramp up Massa's standing in Brasil for the upcoming IPO. The only thing they could not foresee is Massa's accident in 2009. Kimi's departure was a done deal as early as May, 25 2008, latest Sep 14 2008. They just had to make sure he did not accidently win 2008 WDC as Ferrari would have looked really stupid... Very curious about that pit screw up in Monaco, if it was real or orchestrated because this is where it all started, it is a milestone event for things starting to go wrong for Kimi for the rest of the year, along with some unlucky situations.
That is why, Kimi always said "There are many reasons. In F1 there is always a lot of money and there can always be different options. That’s what happened in the end. It’s nothing to do with racing or what I do in the team.”
In short, Kimi was in the wrong team, at the wrong time stuck between Ferrari and future sponsor Santander, because he had the wrong nationality (the Latin lineup), relative to Santander's business plans, and Ferrari's role within, IMHO. What I do not understand is how the journos/media could not connect these dots to show what really went on in 2008. You do not have to do any major investigation because pretty much everything is in the public domain. While I understand all commercial pressures on the racing business, 2008-9 was anything but sporting for Ferrari. They should have just let him go after 2007 instead of playing all kinds of games, and engaging in a PR war to give it an appearance of performance problems. I suspect, even Massa will not bet against Kimi's performance this year, or when he appear to beat him back in 2008-9 as he knows what the deal was relative to his role within the Santander world. I think Kimi understood the business aspect of the issues, and in line with his character never washed any dirty Ferrari laundry in public. Yes, he did have several unlucky situations but his faith was already signed and sealed mid season 2008 purely for business reasons. 2009 was essentially continuation of the 2008 theatrics until Massa's accident. On another front, almost identical scenario (to Santander-Massa-Brasil situation) is in play for Perez in the red car -- Perez-Santander-Mexico, from the same playbook.
This is an opinion piece -- no yelling is necessary.
1) As to how things evolved with the car I am not totally sure but the person who had a front seat was Chris Dyer.
"We had a tough and a hard season but Kimi did exactly the right thing within the team and everyone respected what he did and how he reacted to this situation. We had a fantastic car but unfortunately we made mistakes when thinking about what's best for our driver (Raikkonen)."
I believe the situation he is talking about is the Ferrari corporate decision to support Massa - not exactly sure when, but possibly Sep 24. (he was told that they have to do this because they are stuck with this request from Santander). I think "we made mistakes when thinking about what's best for our driver" bit is referring to Michael because I remember reading somewhere that Michael wanted Massa as the official feedback/debrief driver sometime around Monaco. I think all of Michael's initiatives were well intentioned organizational efficiency related enhancements trying to help Ferarri without favoring any driver but because he was closer to Massa probably Massa benefited more from them... If you recall, recently Kimi said there was only one person at Ferrari he did not like... he did not name that person but I believe it is Michael, because Michael was officially in charge of the car. I think he was/is on good terms with Dom and LdM because he understood the Ferrari business situation that he could not control but Michael was in charge of something (the car itself) he has been used to controlling all his career... in any event, this area - Michael's role -- needs more research because it is mostly opinions. I suspect Dyer will talk or imply after his departure mid year...
2) Massa was at the right place, at the right time and with the right Sponsor, given his nationality. In fact Botin personally made sure Massa was taken care of even before 2010 Ferrari sponsorship started (Massa-“I’m glad to get this support from Santander. Lately I met President Emilio Botin twice and he is absolutely excited about the potential of the Brazilian market...) Being Brasilian, going into the IPO Massa became the brand ambassador for the bank (read the last paragraph in the link relative to the date of the article. Alonso supposed to be in the list but not Massa, on that date) sometime during the summer of 2009, well before Santander-Ferrari relationship kicked in on Jan 1 2010 (Alonso has been the brand ambassador for Spain for a while). This was a direct Massa-Santander payroll relationship ~$5-7M per year. Fast forward to Nov 2011, Botin decided to personally fire him because he was upset with Massa for the results of 2010/2011 seasons. To understand the importance of Latin America to Santander just look at their annual reports. So, to those who have been wondering why Massa has been with Ferrari despite underperforming... because his nationality has been more important than his performance... ,and remember this stuff was not supposed to take place prior to Jan 1 2010... This area could use some more research -- journos: talk to some ex employee...
Hopefully this kind of summary will contribute to closure (2008/9) so we can all move on... to 2012
he said, she said.
thanks for the laugh. i would like to smoke what your smoking