It has been some long time waiting for a Kimi Raikkonen pole, but the Finn offered his fans a treat right where it matters the most: Monza. A lot of talk over slipstream and track position for the final flying lap, but what is actually true?
It is true that at a track like Monza, with long straights and high top speeds, slipstream can be a factor from quite a distance. But after studying Raikkonen’s and Vettel’s laps, we cannot conclude for sure that this was the reason Kimi Raikkonen managed to snatch this magnificent pole.
Here is Raikkonen’s lap from the official F1 channel.
1st chicane (Variante del Rettifilo)
Kimi starts the lap with a 3km/h advantage (not at top speed yet). Top speed, when reached, is finally the same (about 345km/h). Vettel is notoriously early on the throttle when the car can deliver the stability necessary and is so here as well. However, he has to resort to opposite lock and the advantage is lost. Raikkonen keeps it conservative and it pays off.
2nd chicane (Variante della Roggia)
This is crucial for the battle. Similar braking, but Vettel carries a bit more speed into the corner, having to correct before the 1st apex and then rides too much of the kerb at the 2nd apex. He runs wide on the exit kerb and has to shed off some speed. During this whole time, Raikkonen is clean, tidy and razor sharp exiting the corner right on the limit of the kerb, being able to exercise full throttle commitment. He arrives earlier into Lesmo 1 and at a 2-3km/h top speed advantage before that. It didn’t seem much at first glance, but the difference accumulated till the end of the short straight to Lesmo 1 is significant. When Raikkonen is at the 50m sign, Vettel is at least 1-2 car lengths behind.
Lesmo 1 is similar for both, but Vettel manages to keep his average speed higher than Raikkonen through Lesmo 2 and get some of the gap back. Both drivers put a wheel on the grass on the left while turning in at Lesmo 2, Seb does it also at Lesmo 1, being more aggressive. In Lesmo 2, Raikkonen is a bit late on throttle and drops his apex speed almost 6km/h lower than Sebastian. Even this, though, is not enough for Seb to cover for the previous losses.
Raikkonen has a good 4-5km/h speed difference when passing under the bridge after the Serraglio bend. The two drivers approach Ascari very differently, but when they both get out of it there not much between them. They exit at about the same speed, even if their lines and speed fluctuations differ within the chicane.
Raikkonen again has about 2-3km/h on top of Vettel before arriving at the Parabolica. However, Vettel gets in more aggressively and has some mild understeer. He then runs wider and loses fractions of time. The both exit at about the same speed, but this is the corner that Vettel has to drop his minimum speed lower than Kimi.
Kimi again has this 2-3km/h advantage over Vettel in the straight and finally gets the pole by just 0.161 secs.
Summing it up: Raikkonen did a brilliant job keeping the lap clean and fast at the same time. His straightline speed was higher than Vettel’s at all times, but it is not clear whether it was the slipstream or other engine/gearbox/mapping/aero settings. Vettel was tempted into overdriving and didn’t work out in the corners. There, in the second sector, from the second chicane to the exit of Lesmo 2, slipstreaming is not part of the equation. However, Vettel might have won it if they were positioned the other way around, provided that the reason behind Kimi’s top speed was indeed slipstreaming and not the set up.