Even by his standards, Kimi Raikkonen was stony-faced after Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver rarely says much, yet the quietest man in Formula One felt the need to speak up after being on the receiving end of what seemed like clear team orders favoring his teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel won the race, while Raikkonen finished second after securing his first pole position in nine years.
“It doesn’t feel awful good,” Raikkonen said.
The incident he was unhappy about was being asked to pit five laps earlier than Vettel, who took advantage of a much more favorable strategy. It allowed Vettel to stay out longer and pick up speed with no traffic in front of him and then, with his extra speed gained, come out of the pits ahead of Raikkonen and cruise to a 45th career victory.
Although Vettel denied it was a pre-arranged team plan, Raikkonen wasn’t convinced.
“I got the bad end of the story today,” said Raikkonen, whose last win was the season-opening Australian GP in 2013. “It’s still second place but it doesn’t count a lot in my books.”
While Vettel spoke enthusiastically in the post-race news conference, Raikkonen seemed in a daze.
The Finnish driver either stared ahead or straight down at his feet, only raising his head to answer several questions aimed at getting him to say he’d been hindered by his own team.
“We can always say `If’ as much as we want but it doesn’t change things,” Raikkonen said, shrugging his shoulders. “I have no idea. Obviously they have reasons for whatever they do.”
Raikkonen’s dry humor can be piercing when the mood takes him. Although he stopped short of directly criticizing Ferrari, “The Ice Man” clearly had a point to make.
“Obviously I can stop the car if I want,” he joked, asking if he could have refused the instruction to pit earlier than Vettel even though he was leading the race.
“But if you don’t believe what you have been told and how it will work, it will become very complicated at some point,” Raikkonen said. “For myself it could have been better. We’ve just finished the race and who knows? There’s some reason for everything that happens in life.”
That he is making such cryptic comments just six races into the 20-race season may not bode well for Ferrari as it tries to end three straight years of total Mercedes domination.
The Prancing Horse team is 17 points clear of Mercedes in the constructors’ championship and Vettel leads Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton by 25.
With so long to go, the last thing Ferrari needs is Raikkonen feeling let down.
“We get along well and I can understand Kimi’s not totally happy today. I can understand why he’s upset,” Vettel said. “Obviously it’s a bad surprise when somebody comes out ahead. I would feel 100 percent the same. But there were no team orders.”
Others thought there clearly had been.
Three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who was embroiled in several difficult moments with his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the last three years, is certain Ferrari has made Vettel their priority.
“It’s clear to me that Ferrari have chosen their No. 1 driver so they will be pushing everything to make sure Sebastian will maximize all of his weekends,” Hamilton said. “It’s very hard for the leading car (Raikkonen) to get jumped by the second car (Vettel) unless the team decides to favor the other car (Vettel).”
Even Rosberg, who has retired from F1 and was conducting the interviews immediately after the race, offered his sympathy.
“I know how it feels,” Rosberg said to Raikkonen. “It’s not a good feeling.”
Raikkonen has two weeks to either stew on his misfortune or put it behind him at the Canadian GP in Montreal.