If Greta Garbo were to drive a Grand Prix car, would she choose a Lotus?
It was not the movie star who drove the Lotus to victory at Yas Marina Circuit in 2012, but a man who also spurned outside interference.
‘Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing,’ Kimi Räikkönen told his pit crew as they tried to keep the Finn abreast of developments in an incident-strewn fourth Abu Dhabi race which he was leading at the time.
Both car and driver were proof of a resurrection of sorts. The 33-year-old, world champion with Ferrari back in 2007, was back in F1 after a two-year sabbatical in which he had focused on rallying rather than circuit racing.
The so-called Lotus, meanwhile, was not so much a reborn version of one of Grand Prix racing’s most iconic marques, but a briefly rebadged Renault team trying to work its way back to the glory days of 2005 and 2006 when it won both world titles with Fernando Alonso.
Kimi qualified only fourth in a session that produced the first surprise of the Yas Marina weekend. In year four, for the first time, a driver other than Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel found himself on the front row, in the form of Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
While teammate Vettel was relegated to the rear of the grid because of a fuel infringement, the Australian lined up alongside that man Hamilton, whose best lap of 1:41.497 put him on pole in the UAE for the second time, in his final appearance there for McLaren before switching to Mercedes in 2013.
While Webber dwelt on the line and was swamped by the pack, Hamilton sprinted into a lead he never looked likely to relinquish – until outside circumstances intervened.
Early in the race his future teammate Nico Rosberg was eliminated in a Turn 16 collision with Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT that was spectacular but eventually harmless – except to both cars, which were out on the spot.
The resultant Safety Car period lasted until lap 14, and four laps later the leader too was gone, victim of a sudden and terminal loss of fuel pressure. That left the reborn Räikkönen in the lead, a position he occupied with considerably more calm than the crew on his pit wall.
And Kimi did indeed know what he was doing: despite a late charge by Alonso’s Ferrari, the Flying Finn held station till the end to claim his first victory since Spa-Francorchamps in 2009. This Abu Dhabi victory was Räikkönen’s 19th in a Formula 1 career that had started back in 2001 with Sauber.
Ironically, as the 10th Abu Dhabi race approaches, Kimi is on the cusp of another return: to his old team Sauber, now powered by Ferrari, as he prepares to change places with that team’s young phenomenon Charles Leclerc in 2019.
Räikkönen’s heart-warming win had little bearing on the outcome of the 2012 Drivers’ Championship in which Vettel and Alonso were the only remaining competitors. The German came to Abu Dhabi 13 points ahead and left with a still-comfortable margin of 10 after an outstanding drive from pit lane to podium.
While the 2012 season had been remarkable for producing seven different winners in its first seven races, Vettel eventually won five in all to claim a third successive world title ahead of Alonso and… Räikkönen.
Kimi’s exasperated comment from the cockpit found fame as the wording on a tee-shirt that was already selling by the thousands by the time he reached the next race in Austin. Once again, though, he had kept himself to himself.
‘So long as I manage to get myself to the next event, I think the team will be happy,’ he said on leaving Abu Dhabi. ‘I’ll try to get home at some point…’
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