I have it on the very best authority that Kimi Raikkonen has been summoned to appear before the Ferrari hierarchy to explain, if he can, his woeful start to the new season in a car that is a proven winner — at least in the hands of teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Crisis may be too severe a description — but an urgent problem it most certainly is and the Finnish flop could be facing an exit from Maranello if he does not get his faltering act together before he is much older.
And with twice-champion Fernando Alonso, patiently biding his time with the sluggishly shambolic McLaren also-rans, the goodbyes could be looming for Raikkonen in keeping with the welcomes forming around a romantic return to the Italian legends by the Spanish flyer.
An extremely frustrated and admirably forthright Ferrari overlord, president Sergio Marchionne, has spotlighted Raikkonen’s dramatic fade-out and has been critical of F1’s oldest driver who is eking out a contract due to shut down at the season’s close.
That could, however, I am told be shortened if Alonso opts to quit the abject McLaren strugglers and his £32-million-a-year salary, to accept a wage reduction to oust Raikkonen and put himself back to where he feels he belongs… among the front runners in a car to match his towering ability.
The upcoming races will be the telling factor for Raikkonen in an issue, and a possibility, maybe even a probability, that has Formula One gripped with its growing intrigue over his career with the blood-red team.
And the anxiety demonstrated by president Marchionne is self evident when he orders a face-to-face between Raikkonen and his unforgiving and tough-looking team chief Maurizio Arrivabene whose patience is being stretched to the limit as he closely keeps an eye on Alonso’s situation with the besieged UK-based team and groans at Raikkonen’s embarrassing ineptitude.
He and the fiercely committed team members in the garage and along the pitwall were both bewildered and irritated by Raikkonen’s bad-tempered radio messages as he faded into his fifth place in China last time out.
So much so Marchionne ordered the get-together ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain clash, round three, and said: “Kimi and Maurizio need to sit around a table and Maurizio should talk to him to sort out what needs to be done.
“Vettel is more aggressive — but Raikkonen seems busy with other stuff. The car is no more comfortable for Sebastian than it is for Kimi. Absolutely not. So he should be doing better than he is. He seems to have other things on his mind.Is he tired?“
Raikkonen, as gloomy, downbeat and deadpan as they come and who has always given the impression that he does not give a hoot about what opinions or impressions people might have about his erratic form, will not, as usual, have a sorrowful look over his shoulder if he fails to wriggle free of the no-hopers in Sunday’s 191-mile, 57-lap showdown around Bahrain’s desert challenge.
He has a fine record there… no victories — but a tidy handful of second places, five in all. Whether he can stir himself to a resurgent level and intrude upon the keen battle between his partner Vettel, the title pacemaker, and Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton, each of them winners twice on the island kingdom, is a poser of intense intrigue.
Typically laconically the 2007 world champion, a career winner 20 times but not since 2013, says almost yawningly: ”I have been in this sport long enough and it is not very often that it is all smiles and happiness. It is frustrating — but it is part of the job.”
For sure, while all eyes will be focused on the magically developing confrontation between multi-champions Hamilton and Vettel on Sunday, there will be plenty of curious glances towards a driver fighting to save his job and resurrect a fast-fading career...