F1 2016 Driver Review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 21
Podiums: 4
Best Finish: 2nd (Bahrain, Spain)
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 186
Laps Led: 7
Championship Position: 6th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Coming off the back of two tough years with Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed an upturn in fortunes through 2016. He appeared more at ease with the SF16-H than its predecessors, allowing him to even push the Mercedes drivers close in Bahrain, finishing second.

Raikkonen came within a second of his first Ferrari win for eight years in Spain, only to be left frustrated by Max Verstappen through the second half of the race, and he returned to the podium in Austria, capitalizing on the clash between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

But through the second half of the year, Raikkonen was disappointing. Sure, Ferrari lost ground to Red Bull in the pecking order and was firmly the third-best team, yet Kimi still struggled to match teammate Sebastian Vettel through the races (he did win the qualifying head-to-head 11-10, though).

We’ve not quite rediscovered ‘old Kimi’, but the Finn proved through 2016 that he remains a competitive, talented and quick racer. Given the right tools, he could really push Vettel close.

Is there another chapter to be written in Raikkonen’s lengthy F1 career in 2017? Bwoah, maybe!

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Kimi Raikkonen is F1’s most senior driver in terms of age – 37 – if not race starts after his two-year hiatus in 2010 and 2011, and was back to his best form in recent years this year with Ferrari.

Raikkonen struggled with Ferrari’s 2014 chassis, notably in the front end, but found the 2016 chassis happier to his liking. Beating Sebastian Vettel head-to-head in qualifying this year, 11-10, was no small achievement. He also increased his points total and podium finishes this year from 150 and three to 186 and four this year, although dropped in points from fourth to sixth because of Red Bull’s improvements.

Only in Spain did he really look like winning but Raikkonen did put up his usual great efforts in the Middle East, going well at both Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. He also didn’t back down in his season-long spat with Max Verstappen, and provided a bit of a rivalry for us to talk about this season.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.