Judgement Day looms for Kimi Räikkönen, who endured another wanting outcome at Monaco, a consequence of once again leaving much to be desired on a Saturday.
Having lined up sixth, the 2007 World Champion crossed the finish line in the same position, coming off second best in a barging of wheels with Daniel Ricciardo during the closing stages of an ultimately controversial afternoon.
Despite the Finn’s share of misfortune this campaign, he had accumulated more points than he managed across his dismal 2014 season by the conclusion of the Monaco weekend. Yet the notion stands that he has failed to deliver when a driver’s best lap of their weekend is expected – during the final segment of qualifying.
Räikkönen has started no higher than fourth on the grid following six events, and has yet to outqualify Sebastian Vettel – who has already made the Maranello outfit his own following his departure from the Red Bull dynasty.
It would be remiss not to mention his storming drive to second at Bahrain, though aided heavily due to a Vettel removed from the picture due to his front-wing change. Even so, this performance runs the gauntlet of being dismissed as an aberration, unless he can correct the Saturday conundrum.
Rising 36, it is understandable that the raw edge which the Finn possessed a decade ago can no longer be expected, though not to the degree where he concedes two or three positions to his team-mate on the grid, in the a package which is evidently the best of the rest.
When one glances at MotoGP, Valentino Rossi, at 36, is similarly mired in his own Saturday blues despite his upturn in form across the past two seasons. The Italian has been vastly more competitive, with podiums commonplace.
Yet the reality is that cleaner performances during qualifying would undoubtedly be commensurate with further victories than the four he has achieved during this time frame. The age similarities between the former champions lends itself to the theory that no matter how great, the passing of time isn’t without effect.
Räikkönen hasn’t sat on pole position since the French Grand Prix in 2008, but as long as Vettel isn’t achieving this – which is unlikely considering Mercedes decisive advantage throughout past seasons, nobody expects him to either. Conversely, lining up on the second row is a non-negotiable. That it has seldom been occupied by Räikkönen in 2015 is concerning.
This deficiency doesn’t represent grounds for dismissal, with the twelve-month option enactment still the preferred path for Ferrari, but it remains that he must make significant inroads on this front prior to the mid-season break.
If there’s a circuit which could provide another victory, it’s Spa-Francorchamps – the first event once the circus reconvenes in August. Indeed, his most recent Ferrari victory came at the venue in 2009, whilst the best outcome of his nightmare 2014 campaign was delivered here.
But none of this is possible unless the Finn unearths the maximum potential on a Saturday, which will make his life infinitely easier during the races, when it has to be said, he isn’t doing too much wrong.
A Ferrari power unit upgrade in the vicinity of 30 bhp for this weekend should be more than adequate for the Iceman to deliver on arguably the most important lap of his weekend. Failure to do so will only leave further questions regarding his ability to place himself in a position where success on Sunday is the simple matter of a clean getaway, rather than the will-he or won’t-he conundrum of the midfield.
It’s an oft repeated phrase than Formula One is better for Räikkönen’s presence, but it would be something else for the Finn to be causing consternation for those ahead on a Saturday evening, not when it’s all too late.