F1 Driver Review: Kimi Raikkonen

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After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship season, my colleague Chris Estrada and I are taking a look back on how each of the 23 Formula One drivers who took to the grid fared this past year.

Finishing fifth in the championship despite missing the final two races of 2013 was Kimi Raikkonen…

KIMI RAIKKONEN

No. 7 Lotus-Renault
2013 Stats: 5th Place, 1 Win, 8 Podiums, 10 Top-5s, 14 Top-10s, 41 Laps Led
Average Start: 8.4
Average Finish: 6.6
DNFs: 2

DiZinno says: F1 is better with Kimi involved, and the Australian Grand Prix victory to open the year just seemed like a refreshing tonic that could spice up the season. Sadly that was as good as it got and despite a number of runner-up finishes, the Lotus seemed just adrift of the Red Bull in the first half, then third or fourth best car in the second. The mounting frustrations set in regarding the team’s financial strife, and Romain Grosjean’s emergence in the other garage didn’t help things either. If 2012 was a season in overachieving for Raikkonen and Lotus, 2013 felt rather unfulfilled. Here’s to the “third time’s the charm” mantra for 2014 in his Ferrari return.

Estrada says: It started so perfectly, too. Raikkonen opened the season with a triumph in Australia and through the first half, he looked like a potential challenger to Vettel as Lotus’ E21 didn’t chew the Pirellis too much. But a DNF at Spa started what would be a disappointing second half of the year for him as he fought against multiple obstacles: A surging teammate in Romain Grosjean, his financial frustrations with the team, and a back injury he aggravated en route to the podium at Singapore. Eventually, his back could no longer be ignored and Raikkonen opted to leave Enstone early following a first-lap crash at Abu Dhabi. One hopes for his sake that he’ll be 100 percent going into a potentially tough match-up against Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.

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Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.