‘That wasn’t the Kimi we knew’: Alfa Romeo are better off without Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen left Formula 1 at the end of last season following three years with the team.

Former Formula 1 driver Marc Surer believes that Kimi Raikkonen’s age played a factor in his final couple of years at Alfa Romeo.

Raikkonen signed with the Swiss team in 2019 having just achieved his 21st and final career with Ferrari at the 2018 US Grand Prix.

The Finn scored points on nine occasions in his first season, but only six would follow in the next two years before his eventual retirement.

READ: Vasseur was open to Raikkonen contract talks

The 2007 world champion had no issue keeping pace with team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, but he was out-qualified 13 times by the Italian last year as he began to age, and he eventually decided to call it a day at the end of last year.

Team principal Frederic Vasseur highlighted the importance of having a driver that is “fully dedicated” to the cause and, given the 40-year-old’s desire to move on to family life and the fact there are more races than ever this year, he understood that Raikkonen simply would not be able to give his all anymore.

Surer agrees, explaining that the former Ferrari driver no longer had enough in the tank having been in the sport for 19 years.

“Kimi was tired,” he said on the formel1.de podcast.

“You saw that – especially when it came to qualifying and the individual laps. In the race, of course, he still gave good performances with his experience.

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“But, in qualifying, that wasn’t the Kimi we knew.”

Ferrari spent a large chunk of the 2021 season working on their new power unit under the new technical regulations that would ultimately help them claw back their power deficit to Honda and Mercedes.

They mitigated the 20-horsepower deficit as a result of the E10 fuel blend they developed with Shell, and Alfa Romeo were one of the beneficiaries of that given that they are customer to the Scuderia.

They have used that to consistently fight in the midfield this year, and Valtteri Bottas has helped them to sixth in the Constructors’ Championship by scoring in four of the opening five races.

Surer states that the engine has naturally been a big factor towards their relative success this season.

“The other thing is, yes, the engine has more power,” he added.

“That’s about 30 horsepower – three-tenths. That’s a gift. If you look at the midfield and how tight it was, then that makes a huge difference. With three-tenths, you make a huge leap forward.”

When the Sauber group were in financial turmoil a few years ago, they did not even have the funds to switch on and use their pristine wind tunnel, but the injection of cash through their partnership with the Alfa Romeo brand has enabled them to gain crucial data from the chassis, so they have been able to integrate it with the Ferrari PU to great effect.

“There is one other thing that must not be forgotten,” Surer explained.

READ: FIA president meets with Porsche CEO to discuss Formula 1 entry

“We have new regulations and, as we know, Sauber has the best wind tunnel.”

In the first five races of this season, Alfa Romeo have already doubled their tally from the whole of last year, and they head to Barcelona this weekend with another upgrade that they are “confident” will improve their performance further.