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Start Hungarian GP
Days
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Kimi Raikkonen

RacingNews365 Debates: Is it time for Kimi Raikkonen to retire?

With Kimi Raikkonen's 2021 season not going particularly well, is time up on the Finn's long and illustrious career? Our RN365 journalists debate..

Column
To news overview © Alfa Romeo

With Kimi Raikkonen making an unusually dramatic mistake at the end of the Austrian GP that resulted in both he and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel careering into the gravel, it marks another low point in a season that is getting away from the Finn.

After twenty years of racing in Formula 1, taking up the mantle of the leading man at McLaren after Mika Hakkinen, battling against the great Michael Schumacher during the McLaren vs. Ferrari days, Raikkonen has seen it all and done it all.

After being dropped from Ferrari at the end of 2018, a few years racing for Sauber/Alfa Romeo in a lower pressure environment seemed to make sense. The chance to lead a midfield team, help them grow, and offer some mentorship to the promising Antonio Giovinazzi. It all made sense.

But, three years on, is it time for the Finn to finally leave Formula 1 behind?

Thomas Maher: I don't think this can be fun for him anymore

I don't think Raikkonen's Austria error, specifically, is a sign of anything in terms of deterioriation of his skills. Kimi is usually brilliant in wheel to wheel, but he isn't completely infallible.

Who can forget the time he launched himself over the back of a Toro Rosso while lapping it at Hungary 2006? That was an error of similar proportions to what we saw in Austria, and earlier this year in Portimao.

But I think F1 is slowly getting away from what Kimi signed up for with Alfa Romeo. The car isn't particularly good and, rather than fighting for points like he was able to do in 2019, Kimi is now fading further and further towards the very back.

This is particularly evident in qualifying. Raikkonen was an amazing qualifier in his early career but his ability to find a single lap time on a Saturday has faded to the extent where it's becoming somewhat unusual to see him escape Q1.

At a logistical level, 23 races worldwide is also very tough. While that's maybe OK for young, single guys eager to rise in F1, Raikkonen is a happily married, settled family man with a life of luxury in Switzerland. A gruelling calendar takes him away from that.

Bear in mind that contract negotiations this year are likely to take place during three consecutive triple headers after the summer break. Will there be a point, as Raikkonen climbs onto yet another place after yet another 15th place finish, that he'll think "Why am I still doing this?"

Bear in mind that leaving F1 doesn't mean leaving motorsport. He could easily find a leading seat in endurance racing or World Rallycross, series with considerably less demanding calendars.

Adriano Boin: Raikkonen should continue

Given he will turn 42 later this year, it goes without saying that Raikkonen’s time in F1 is nearing an end. The 2007 World Champion was as quick as any driver on the grid during his heyday, however with Alfa Romeo having slipped further and further back since the Finn joined them in 2019, points finishes are no longer a sure thing.

Having said all that, I think the Finn should continue on for one more season at least. With F1 set to introduce sweeping technical changes in 2022, Raikkonen should see what all the talk has been about test them out first hand while competing against the rest of the grid.

At worst, Alfa Romeo will be in a similar position to the one they’ve been in the last two seasons which has seen them battle it out with the likes of Williams and Haas at the back.

However if the team get the new rules right and are challenging for points on a regular basis, then at least the Finn will be motivated to extend his record for F1 race starts and entries given he won’t be making a second return to the sport once he hangs up his helmet and gloves this time.

Nigel Chiu: One of the Alfa Romeo drivers has to go, but not Raikkonen

Alfa Romeo don't have the same quality in their driver line-up compared to the rest of the grid. Something has to change but the problem is, Giovinazzi is not exactly outshining a Raikkonen who is far from his best.

In fact, Raikkonen is the driver who's generally been quicker in the races with some great performances that have gone under the radar.

Giovinazzi should be in the prime of his career and he's not delivering despite having more than two years experience in F1.

Experience will be crucial in 2022 as new regulations come into F1 so based on Raikkonen's 20 years in the sport and his great tyre management, he should stay for continuity and it's Giovinazzi who I would drop if he does not impress in the second half of the season.

If Alfa Romeo remain in F1, which appears will be the case, that will help Raikkonen's case to stay. The journey might not be over for the the popular Kimi Raikkonen which is remarkable considering he's been widely mooted to leave the sport for the last eight years but somehow continues to stay in the sport.

Thomas Maher: New regulations give Kimi and Alfa a chance for a clean break

Kimi Raikkonen's vast experience means that he's an attractive proposition to have on your side at the start of a new regulation cycle. Kimi's been around since the days of howling 3.0 litre V10s and vastly different aerodynamics to what we have nowadays.

With Kimi, you know you're getting a good benchmark and a solid pair of hands and that means a strong platform to build upon.

But it also offers the chance for both sides to get a clean break as 2022 is a revolutionary time for the sport. Kimi isn't going to be around much longer, so why would Alfa spend the money on Raikkonen when they could bring in the likes of Callum Ilott? Or, as Dieter Rencken said on the RN365 F1 Podcast this week, bring in Valtteri Bottas to spearhead the team?

If Raikkonen isn't scoring points, then what have the team to lose?

I'll be very sad to see Raikkonen step away. I've been a big fan of his ever since he entered F1 as a precocious enigma. He's a unique character and, in his day, was among the most talented drivers to have ever driven an F1 car.

But those days are a long way behind now. As retired drivers like David Coulthard have said, there comes a point where the skills needed for F1 start to fade and it's at that moment where a driver needs to acknowledge their time has come. Coulthard ended up staying a year too long and was able to admit that with hindsight. Hopefully, Raikkonen doesn't do the same.

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