Ask Karun: On Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg
Is it time to write Kimi Raikkonen off? Does he have another championship title in him? Or is he going to be one of those solid, point-scoring drivers who can be relied upon for good results but nothing more?
I think at the moment it looks like Seb has the upper hand. But you have to keep in mind, Kimi had a very good season last year. He was much happier with the car and he was much happier with the people he was working with, which was a big change. Towards the end of 2015, in fact, they changed some of the people on his side of the garage. He trusts them more, he's happier with them, he's got a better relationship with them, and therefore he was able to deliver the results in 2016. In fact, he out-qualified Sebastian 11-10, which was really impressive for him. Where he goes from here is going to be really tricky. We've got a very interesting situation, with a number of contracts and a number of seats up for grabs. So it's all to play for in the whole driver market this year. Kimi is going to have to keep an eye out for how all of that unfolds.
How serious a threat is Sebastian Vettel to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas? Will Vettel put up a strong fight for the championship title? Or will we have to wait and see whether the Ferrari continues to do well all through the season?
I think we've seen for the first couple of races that Ferrari are right in the hunt to take on Mercedes. The car seems competitive in all conditions and on the different compounds of tyre, which is something we didn't see last year. They often struggled on one particular tyre or the other on a given weekend. This year they seem to have that usability which will really help them across the season. I think Sebastian Vettel is relishing the prospect of going up against Lewis and he's raised his game, but so has Lewis. I think the opportunity to compete against someone from another team, as opposed to someone from the same team for the last three years. I think that's something he's really excited about and he's having to raise his game as well. Overall we're in for a classic season of F1. We're going to see some really, really good battles among them. And unless Bottas and Kimi can lift their game up, this is starting to look like a two-horse race between Seb and Lewis who are establishing themselves as the leaders in the game. Of course, we're just 10 per cent into the season, so there's plenty of time for Valtteri and Kimi to redress this situation. We're in for a classic season of Ferrari versus Mercedes.
What is with Nico Hulkenberg? We've always heard of him as a driver with tremendous potential - GP2 title, Le Mans win etc. But when it's come to Formula 1, he just hasn't delivered, has he? Will the switch from Force India to Renault do him good?
I raced against Nico Hulkenberg in GP2. I raced against a number of these drivers coming up in the lower formula. There were only two drivers in my junior formula career that I raced against and I thought, "Yeah, I can't beat you." Most other people, I was able to fight, in a straight fight, and beat. People like Grosjean, people like Perez, people like that I felt I could compete against. But Nico Hulkenberg in GP2. And I raced against Lewis in F3 very briefly. I remember following Lewis at Brands Hatch, thinking he was amazing. And the same with Hulkenberg. For whatever reason, more to do with the fact that he's not landed himself in the right seat at the right time and he's not been given a chance to deliver on that potential. I still find it amazing - he's not had a podium in Formula 1. And there's something to be said about that. Because in their time in Force India, whenever there was a big result to be had, whenever there was that low-bearing fruit, it was Checo who got that result and got the podiums. And for whatever reason, something went wrong for Nico. After a while you start to wonder if it's just bad luck, or if it's him. I'm sure he's wondering it as well. I still think he's an outstanding talent, and he's an incredibly good driver, and if Renault carry on improving - they have a good package and in China he was seventh on the grid - they're on the right path and maybe one day Nico will have the chance to fight for those race victories that I think his talent deserves.
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