The ‘Brain’ Behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Stellar Start at 2020 Portuguese GP Reveals the Strategy Behind It

Published 09/30/2021, 11:50 AM EDT
MONZA, ITALY – Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari looks on in the garage during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)


The 2020 Formula One Season was completely shaken up by the Covid-19 pandemic. The tracks were being canceled and added to the race calendar left, right, and center. One of the tracks that were added for the season was Portimao, to host its first-ever F1 race–the Portuguese Grand Prix. It was a weekend of unknowns as F1 cars had never raced there. But one person took advantage of the track being unknown. It was Kimi Raikkonen.

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He made up 10 positions on the opening lap itself. The ‘brain’ which orchestrated Kimi’s extraordinary start that day was Ruth Buscombe, the Head of Race Strategy at Alfa Romeo. She recently revealed the way she made all her decisions and how she set up Kimi for the brilliant opening lap.

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Kimi had a brilliant start at the Portuguese GP

Kimi started the Portuguese Grand Prix in P16 and made up an impressive 10 positions on the opening lap. By the end of lap 1, he was running P6. This was only possible because Kimi was on a completely different strategy than everyone else. A strategy that was set up by Ruth Buscombe.

In the podcast ‘Beyond The Grid’ Ruth was asked what her working process was, when Kimi made the amazing start, whether she had anticipated it, and what was her response. Ruth started out by reminding that Kimi was the only car who started on the Softs.

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She explained, “I think the exact amount of success was not in my original simulations, but I think, you know, when you start in a position like that, around a track that was a new track, or relatively new in terms of, to the people of Formula 1 in those cars. It’s every strategist’s wildest dream because especially if you are not starting from the front in the quickest car, all of these unknowns are opportunities. So the fact that the people did not know what exactly the tires are gonna perform like, that adds a level of risk vs reward.

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Kimi Raikkonen delivered an equally stunning performance at Sochi

Kimi’s rise from the back of the grid to the points was not a one-time thing at all. The Alfa Romeo driver delivered an amazing performance at Sochi during the rain-splattered Russian GP 2021. Even after starting at P16, he ended the race within the points again.

When the first drops of rain fell at Sochi, he changed into intermediate tires while everyone else was still running dry ones. This gamble paid off. Many thought his experience in such tricky situations is because of his rally racing past, but he dismissed that speculation.

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Formula One F1 – Dutch Grand Prix – Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Netherlands – September 2, 2021 Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen during the FIA Press Conference Pool via REUTERS/Kenzo Tribouillard

Formula One is a team sport and most of the time, the drivers take the spotlight. But, it’s pretty evident that, without a brilliant hardworking team behind the said driver, it’s impossible to perform at the highest level of motorsport. With such a great strategist backing him, where will Kimi land up in the Drivers’ Championship at the end of the season? That remains to be seen.

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Riddhi Mondal

92 articles

Riddhi Mondal is an F1 Author at EssentiallySports. Having previously worked as a student reporter at The Statesman, she is an ardent follower of all things F1. A nerd through and through, the complicated physics that goes into the cars is what drew Riddhi to the sport.

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