MONACO (Reuters) - Kimi Raikkonen rolled back the years, all nine of them, on Saturday with pole position for Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The last time the Finn started a Formula One race from the top slot, he was the reigning champion while current team mate Sebastian Vettel had yet to join the ranks of grand prix winners, let alone take four crowns.
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, then in a winning McLaren in the days before current employers Mercedes had returned with their own team, would only secure the first of his three titles months later.
Magny-Cours, the rural French Grand Prix circuit surrounded by fields of cows where Raikkonen took that last pole in June 2008, has disappeared from the calendar.
It has been quite a while.
Anyone expecting whoops of delight, or excited chatter, would have been disappointed, however. ‘The Iceman’ lived up to his nickname.
“Oh great. Thank you, guys,” he said over the radio.
“Obviously it’s the best place to start for tomorrow, but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” he said later.
“I felt good, so I was able to push and it was quite a nice straightforward qualifying. So happy for myself, happy for the team.”
Vettel, who has enjoyed 44 victories since Raikkonen’s last pole and now leads the championship by six points from Hamilton, will line up alongside the Finn with an even longer drought set to end on Sunday.
Ferrari have not won around Monaco’s tight and twisty streets since German great Michael Schumacher in 2001 but Vettel, rather than Raikkonen, could be the man to do it.
The German has scored 55 points more than Raikkonen in five races and nobody would be surprised if ‘team orders’ surfaced at some point on Sunday, or to see Vettel lead into the first corner.
Raikkonen bristled at the suggestion, however.
”We know what we are doing, we are racing for the team and we have certain rules and respect against each other,“ said the Finn. ”We are allowed to fight but obviously, we have to do it as clean as we can and not take each other out.
“I don’t know why people expect that it is something different tomorrow than it’s been the last two years,” he added when asked by an Italian reporter whether there would be a pre-race ‘briefing’.
“Nothing has changed. Just try to make a stupid story out of nothing.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar