Lotus admit they can't afford any more problems after Kimi Raikkonen's Belgian DNF
But Sky F1 pundit Herbert thinks title race already run for Kimi
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 31/08/13 6:13pm
Eric Boullier admits Lotus cannot afford any further reliability problems to derail Kimi Raikkonen's season after the Finn's Belgian GP retirement - although Sky Sports F1's pundits believe the Finn is already out of serious title contention.
Despite not having won since the opening round of the year in Australia, Raikkonen returned from the summer break as Sebastian Vettel's nearest championship challenger after five second-place finishes.
However, amid what was already proving a challenging weekend for Lotus at Spa, Raikkonen dropped out of a race for the first time since returning to F1 in 2012 after the left-front brake disk on his E21 overheated and ultimately failed - a problem which was later traced to a cooling duct which had been blocked by a loose visor tear-off strip.
The Finn's first no-score in 28 races, combined with Vettel's fifth win of the season and podium finishes for Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, meant Raikkonen slipped to fourth in the standings, 63 points off the pace.
Speaking ahead of next week's Italian GP, Boullier said it was now imperative that the Spa DNF proved a blip and as a minimum Raikkonen didn't lose any more ground in the battle behind Vettel.
"We need to get Kimi back on the podium and consistently," the Lotus Team Principal said.
"His DNF in Spa was the first he has had with Lotus F1 Team and we certainly don't want to see any more this season. He's been on the podium six times so far this year and there are eight races remaining.
"We all know that the gap to Sebastian [Vettel] is not getting any smaller, but behind Seb the battle is quite tight as we've seen over the last few races."
However, although Boullier is refusing to rule his driver out of title contention completely with still more than a third of the season to go, two of Sky F1's ex-drivers turned pundits can't see Raikkonen closing back in on Vettel.
Speaking on The F1 Show, Johnny Herbert said: "Even if you take the rip-off visor issue away, we just haven't really seen that raw speed that he needs to be able to take it to Sebastian Vettel. That just hasn't really been there.
"The car always looks good in race form but he always seems to struggle that little bit when he's in qualifying. He's always starting that little bit too far back, which is a little bit like what Fernando does, and then he's never really in the right place [to win]."
Fellow F1 Show guest Karun Chandhok, meanwhile, agreed that one of the would-be challengers had now to put a run of wins together - and even then they still likely needed a couple of Vettel retirements to get back in the hunt.
"Unless you're winning races, especially with the lead that Sebastian has now [you won't catch him]," the former HRT driver said.
"Really, for this championship to get reignited we need him to have two DNFs. Then we need Kimi, Fernando and Lewis to be on the podium for those two races and then the championship comes up again."
Lotus's chances of delivering an immediate repost seem unlikely at Monza given the historic venue represents the lowest-downforce configuration cars will run in all season, something not considered one of the strengths of the E21.
But while acknowledging that fact, Raikkonen, who has never won in Italy in ten previous attempts, offered hope that they could yet be more competitive this time around.
"Low downforce has not always been the best for our car, but the factory has been working hard to get more speed and stability for us with some changes to the car," said the Finn, ahead of a race in which Lotus are set to introduce a longer wheelbase car.
"Let's wait and see how the car goes on Friday morning and then we'll have a better idea of what can be achieved."