Australia and Bahrain – Kimi is unlucky
For the first time since his return to Ferrari in 2014, Raikkonen outqualified his team-mate at the opening event of the season at Albert Park in Melbourne. Things were looking good for the Finn early on because he was running a solid P2 ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel by a comfortable 4 seconds before he stopped.
Yet, things would go against the Iceman thanks to Vettel staying out and the German benefitting hugely from a Virtual Safety Car. It left the 2007 World Champion down in 3rd and he was forced to fend off Ricciardo who also got a free stop. That was three points lost for Kimi in Australia.
On to Bahrain and Raikkonen was luckless once again. A botched pitstop was where disaster would strike. Kimi made a second stop which would have left him 4th and chasing Hamilton in the closing stages – but he was given the green left too soon with one of his tyres still not changed and he hit a mechanic who would end up with a broken leg.
It was another certain 12 or 15 points down the drain for the Flying Finn. Most importantly, however, is that the Ferrari mechanic is on the road to recovery following that scary incident.
China and Azerbaijan – Valtteri's turn to be luckless
Following a bad performance in Australia and a close fight for victory in Bahrain, it was the turn of Valtteri Bottas to suffer from misfortune in China and at Azerbaijan in particular.
Bottas drove a superb race in Shanghai and left team-mate Hamilton well and truly in the shade. A brilliant undercut on Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel gave the man from Nastola the lead of the Grand Prix. Unfortunately for him, a badly timed Safety Car would prove to be very costly. It was deployed moments after he had gone past the pit entry. It left him open to an attack from the Red Bulls and Ricciardo took the chance in the closing stages on his fresher soft tyres vs Bottas' older mediums. Valtteri would have been disappointed with P2 as he had control of the race.
However, the real big blow came in Baku. The Finn was beaten by Hamilton to the front row and in the first 20 laps, he seemed to be struggling for pace as Vettel and Hamilton pulled away comfortably from him. It turned out after all that Valtteri was managing his tyres to go for a very long opening stint. When Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 22, the Fast Finn trailed Vettel by 12.7s. Yet, he had cut that down to almost 9 seconds by the time the German boxed on lap 30.
He continued to show tremendous pace on the supersoft tyre against Vettel and Hamilton on much fresher soft tyres – and he set the fastest lap of the Grand Prix on lap 37. The clash between the Red Bulls gifted him a free pitstop under Safety Conditions and he kept hold of the lead from.
He managed to hold P1 on the restart as Vettel tried a lunge into T1 – but Bottas would be cruelly denied victory thanks to a tyre blowout with only 3 laps remaining. He hit a piece of debris following an incident with Magnussen and Gasly on the previous lap. It was rotten luck for the man who could have won in both Shanghai and Baku.
It's not the first time a Finnish driver has had a win taken away from them in the closing stages of a race: Remarkably, both Mika Hakkinen (Spain 2001) and Kimi Raikkonen (Europe 2005) have lost a win on the last lap of a Grand Prix. The Finns do seem to suffer late race heartbreak more than most.
The good news for the fans of either of the Finns is that Bottas and Raikkonen are both much more competitive against their team-mates so far in 2018 than they were last year.
The Finn in the Mercedes has been especially out of luck so far. A nightmare weekend in Australia has been put to one side thanks to fantastic performances in China and Azerbaijan. Valtteri's had the race pace on Hamilton at both those events and outqualified the Brit in Bahrain and Shanghai. He's also been Vettel's main challenger in the last three races.
It's a travesty he's 30 points behind his stablemate in the standings – but if he maintains his current level he'll start to claw points back if he gets some luck to go with his speed.
Raikkonen lost a number points in Australia and Bahrain – but some incidents in China and Baku have given him some points back.
His qualifying speed has been absolutely sensational in 2018 and easily his best spell in this area since he returned to the sport in 2012. After narrowly losing out on pole at Sakhir and Shanghai, an error in Baku cost him an almost certain pole. He will need to cut those kinds of mistakes out.
A strong race in Australia went unrewarded for the most part. He has looked slower than Vettel in the first stints in Bahrain and China, so his pace on high fuel is something that he needs to work on. Overall, though, this is by far the strongest we've seen Kimi since his return to Ferrari at the beginning of 2014.
He sits 22 points behind Hamilton and is 18 points adrift of Vettel following the first four rounds. Will he be allowed to fight his team-mate? That's the big question going forward. His move in Baku shows he certainly wants to. The speed is there on the evidence of 2018 so far – but he needs some luck like Valtteri too. As Kimi said himself after Baku: ''If I take over the years, I’m far from on the positive side [of luck] yet...''