Kimi Raikkonen always brings out a devoted following to the grandstands irrespective of the country he is in. However, his Chinese fan base would probably say they are the most devoted. Considering the noise the considerable cluster made any time The Iceman was shown on big sreen - they may have a case.
‘2019 Kimi Raikkonen’ has been much more open to signing autographs and taking selfies than in previous years. It certainly cannot be that the reason is because Scuderia Ferrari were against him doing so due to the fact his former teammate Sebastian Vettel can rival any driver for title of ‘most autographs signed’. Thursday’s autograph session at the SAIC International Circuit in Shanghai once again brought Raikkonen’s fan base to Jiading and The Iceman did not disappoint them. So what of his performance on race day?
Kimi would start the race from thirteenth but would benefit greatly from Daniil Kvyat’s collision with the pair of McLarens. Twitter would claim ‘The Torpedo is back’ and the Stewards declared the collision worthy of drive through penalty. With the impressive McLaren qualifying pace not able to be utilized -
By lap 4, Raikkonen passed Kevin Magnussen to take 11th – Haas are having pace issues and they need fixing fast. Raikkonen pushed on and would benefit later in the race due to his skill…and Renault unreliability as Nico Hulkenberg was forced to retire. Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen continued wrestling with his Haas and did come close to Kimi as he emerged from pitlane…but it wasn’t to be and 10th stayed with the Finn. Next was a simple move round Grosjean for an easy 9th…then the real fun started.
By lap 47, Raikkonen had Sergio Perez ahead of him in 8th and just around the corner 7th place was held by Daniel Ricciardo. For the 2019 season, this is probably the battle which will be just as compelling as what is happening up at the top end of the grid and so it proved in Shanghai. The infamous ‘Best of the Rest’ Trophy.
There were moments of trepidation for the many Ricciardo fans in the main grandstand as Perez closed the gap. However, thanks to Raikkonen hounding the Mexican, Checo was forced to look more in his mirrors as opposed to further up the track. Finally, as the chequered flag fell to signal Lewis Hamilton the victor of the 1000th Formula 1 Grand Prix - that was the final order.
13th place to 9th for Kimi Raikkonen…as you can imagine his fans were delighted.
Such a performance now means that Raikkonen holds 7th place in the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship and is also just one point away from Pierre Gasly in 6th. The Frenchman has 13 points to his name for 2019 due the his lackluster start to his Red Bull tenure. However, it is only race three so let’s hope the ‘depression of the media’ (as described by Toto Wolff) does not write down the promising French driver…too soon.
Either way, with the talent of Raikkonen and the support of his fans, one thing is for sure that the title ‘Best of the Rest’ is probably the least that Kimi will feel he deserves – his fans here in Shanghai and the world over would certainly agree!