For years, Ferrari or Lotus fans wondered when Kimi Raikkonen would return to the top of the timesheets in qualifying.
His teammates haven’t always outperformed him – with Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel having just four poles for Ferrari since late 2008 – but question marks were put on the Finn and whether he could still find a fast lap when needed.
There were no Scuderia poles in 2009 before his two years break in rallying, but he couldn’t find a time strong enough in five seasons with either team between 2012 and 2016. This intensified as Ferrari pushed Mercedes for fastest lap times in early 2017, with the ‘Can he take pole again?’ thought mentioned more than once.
It took 128 Grand Prix entries and 3262 days, but Raikkonen started at the front of the grid at the best place for it – Monaco, close to the French Magny-Cours track he last succeeded at in June 2008. This marked the first season since 2013 that four different drivers have taken pole (Lewis Hamilton, Vettel and Valtteri Bottas).
These three competitors are on the massive list of racers to have earned the top spot in the 168 races since Raikkonen’s previous best, representing an interesting mark of how the sport has changed since the Finn was the reigning champion.
Hamilton has the most poles during this time, collecting 56, a third of those available, and one in every season. The Brit established himself as a champion just months after Raikkonen’s last and has won the Pole Trophy twice in three years.
Next on the list is Vettel, claiming 47 and all of his poles to date, with Toro Rosso, Red Bull and the Italians. His emergence also came in the same year, when he shocked the sport with a fastest qualifying time and win in Italy.
Retired champion Nico Rosberg finished his career with 30 in five years between 2012 and 2016, while Vettel’s former teammate Mark Webber ended his time in the sport with 13.
Many drivers also have single digits, with now-McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button each having five. You have to think back to 2012 to remember either celebrating in front of cameras after qualifying.
Williams’ Massa has four since 2008, although just one between 2009 and now, topping timings in 2014 at Austria.
A total of eight pilots share one pole – former competitors Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado, alongside current heroes Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Bottas.
With this problem off his shoulders, Raikkonen now has the record for largest gap between poles and is set to have it for at least a year, with the next driver possibly claiming this accolade being Hulkenberg.
The German has 105 race entries without starting at the front, since his shock pole in Brazil’s drying conditions seven years ago.
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