Kimi Raikkonen should have been punished for Silverstone smash

Raikkonen Silverstone

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen should have been punished for his massive crash at the British Grand Prix, no matter how unpopular the decision would be.

Everybody loves Kimi Raikkonen. His aggressive driving, off-track antics, and ultra-cool personality make him a massive grandstand favourite across the globe.

However, none of that absolves him for the fact that he caused a massive accident at Silverstone that could have been a lot worse.

Firstly, however, it's great to see that he's feeling okay. He might have to miss the Silverstone test, but there is no lasting damage and his surgically-repaired back held up to the massive impact just fine. That's great to hear. Now, to continue criticising him...

FIA Sporting Article 20.2 states that “should a car leave the track the driver may re-join, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so.” Although the racing driver in him told Kimi that with the massive run off area he could easily keep his foot down and maintain racing speed, rejoining the track in that fashion was quite simply unsafe.

He would have known the rain gulley was there from his Thursday track walk, yet he still tried to thread the needle between the edge of the astroturf and the start of the gulley on cold, dirty tyres. He was also driving into a bottle neck, rejoining the circuit at a different angle the cars on-track were at, meaning that at best he'd be cutting across some of the field.

What he should have done is lifted, straightened up, and fed his car back onto the track. It would have cost him a few seconds, but it would have kept him in the race and prevented a massive accident. More importantly, it would have kept him in line with the rules.

What this has done is set a dangerous precedent. There is already a lot of discontent over the prevalence of tarmac run-off areas over good-old-fashioned gravel traps, and many are unhappy with how they allow sloppy driving to go unpunished.

With stewards being disinterested in the fact that Kimi tried to feed back into the pack at full racing speed, it has given the go-ahead for similar behaviour. There are dozens of corners on the F1 circuit where this could happen – turn one at the next race at Hockenheim, or Eau Rouge at Spa, for example – and this has given drivers the agency to risk a repeat of this smash. That is very bad news for safety.

It was a mixture of dumb luck and lightening reaction that the Silverstone incident wasn't a bigger crash. Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa did wonderful work to largely avoid Raikkonen's car, while after the race Max Chilton said that when he saw flying bodywork and tyres he closed his eyes and braced as he thought he was about to get hit on the head – the same situation which killed Henry Surtees in an F2 crash in 2009 and nearly killed Massa at the Hungarian Grand Prix just one week later.

In the end, Raikkonen's wheel was deflected away by Chilton's nosecone and he could carry on racing unharmed. Still, it was a situation created by Raikkonen's unsafe driving.

You can understand why Raikkonen kept his foot down – frustration from poor qualifying, wanting to not get stuck in the backmarker battle and have his race ruined, and natural racer instinct.

However, this doesn't hide the fact that he rejoined the track dangerously and caused a collision. It was unfortunate that he was banged up, but at the same time it shouldn't absolve him from punishment. The stewards have tried to be more lax with their investigations, as seen by them leaving the epic Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso battle alone, but this is something they should have investigated.

Raikkonen didn't deserve the book thrown at him. But a grid penalty would have sent the message out that if you run wide, you need to lift the throttle and rejoin safely. Instead, what F1 has done is tell drivers who run wide at the first turn of Hockenheim that they can stay full throttle and swipe back onto the track without the risk of a penalty, tempting a repetition of Raikkonen's accident.