- Maurice Hamilton's blog
Räikkönen: Don't confuse him with numbersMaurice Hamilton June 7, 2014
- United States Grand Prix
The only certainly about the number of Grands Prix started by Kimi Räikkönen is that he couldn't give a toss about whether it's 200 or 201. Arguments about the 2005 United States Grand Prix being part of the tally holds about as much interest for the Kimster as the blend of tea bag in his Montreal hotel room.
Personally, I sided with David Croft during a friendly debate with Johnny Herbert as they filled in a quiet moment of Sky's Free Practice 1 commentary on Friday morning. If you recall, the race at Indianapolis was one of F1's most shameful exhibitions when 20 cars began the parade lap and 14 of them peeled into the pit lane, leaving two Ferraris, two Jordans and a pair of Minardis to start the race.
The trouble had been caused by Michelin failing to bring tyres that could cope with the banked track. Safety was the emotive issue on race day following tyre problems during practice. Less easy to understand was F1's political self-interest overriding the fundamental fact that 120,000 fans had paid to see a motor race and clearly were not getting one when the Ferraris disappeared into the distance. Trailed by two yellow cars and a couple of black ones, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello went round and round for an hour and 29 minutes and then added insult to injury by making a mess of a staged finish.
By the time the 'winners' had reached the podium, Räikkönen was probably either investigating the fridge in his hotel room or stepping on board a flight home. His weekend had officially ended the moment he climbed from his MP4-20 in the McLaren garage. But had he started the race?
Not in my book. Herbert argued that he always felt his race started from the moment he left the pit lane and headed for the grid. Certainly, the race countdown begins when the green light at the pit exit appears 30 minutes before the start. But that is part of the procedure. As is the final parade lap to the grid. Once there and under the gimlet eye of Charlie Whiting, the drivers come under starter's orders. If you do that and, regardless of whether or not you stall and don't actually leave the grid, your race has begun. But not before.
This should not be confused with a restart. Take the 1986 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. A multiple collision going towards Paddock Bend brought out the red flag. A delay of more than half an hour meant a completely fresh start, the race to be run over the scheduled 75 laps because refuelling was allowed.
Anyone responding to the green lights (as they were then) first time round had, in my view, started the 1986 British Grand Prix. Besides, I wouldn't want to be the one to tell Jacques Laffite, whose racing career ended with badly broken legs against the barrier, that he hadn't actually taken part.
Räikkönen is probably the only driver out there who, in a similar conversation, would not be remotely interested in the statistical complication. Should he, by some chance, win Sunday's race, don't delay a happy departure to a downtown nightclub with questions about whether this was Grand Prix number 200 or 201. The answer would probably be as direct as Niki Lauda's response should you venture to suggest he never took part in the race that almost killed him at the Nürburgring Nordschleif in 1976. But that's another story.
You could, however, mention the one fact over which there can be no doubt. Kimi will be appearing as a guest of Shell at the Goodwood Festival of Speed over the weekend of June 28/29. This will be his first visit to the British motoring pageant. Surely even the Kimster can be in no doubt about that?
Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1.