Kimi Raikkonen questioned Ferrari’s race strategy after a fourth-place finish at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday as the Italian team looks down the barrel of another winless season.
Raikkonen was running in third place when Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in fourth pitted for fresh tires with 16 laps to go. That put Ferrari in a dilemma. Should it bring the Finn into the pits the next lap, fit him with the same ultra-soft tires as Hamilton’s and hope Raikkonen gets out of the pits still ahead? Or should it let Raikkonen stay out with a lead of around 30 seconds and hope Hamilton can’t catch up?
As the team frantically weighed up the options, Raikkonen yelled over the radio, “Are we boxing (pitting) this lap?” only to get the reply from his engineer: “I’ll let you know.”
The team went for the first option, bringing Raikkonen in, but could not get him back out ahead of Hamilton, who held on for third.
“We lost the place there, I don’t know how and why they managed to jump us, and I don’t know what would have happened if we would have stayed out,” Raikkonen said post-race. “Now we have to go through everything, see what happened and what we could have done better.”
Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene backed the decision, saying “it made sense to call him to box one more time.”
Teammate Sebastian Vettel finished fifth in an impressive performance after starting at the back of the grid due to an anti-roll bar failure in qualifying.
It was a far cry from his race win at the same venue last year. Having failed to beat Mercedes on the track where its performance edge was largely negated, Ferrari seems likely to endure another winless season to match that of 2014.
“I know patience is not a quality of the Ferraristi,” Vettel said. “It’s not a quality of mine either, we are here to win and we’re not satisfied until it happens, but we’re progressing step by step and one day it will pay off.”