|© Alastair Staley/Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen’s second-place finish in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix was his 20th consecutive points finish in Formula 1, joining Fernando Alonso (23) and Michael Schumacher (24) as the only men to achieve that feat.
That string of points finishes appeared to be in serious jeopardy when he ran heavily into the back of Sergio Perez's McLaren early in the race, but remarkably his Lotus lost little pace and the team opted to keep the damaged front wing and nose on the car.
If not for that accident, and a slow start that saw the Finn immediately shuffled down from his second place on the grid to fourth, Raikkonen would have posed a much stronger challenge to Alonso.
"It was quite difficult out there," Raikkonen said of driving with a rearranged front assembly. "The car is not designed like that, otherwise we would use it all the time, but I was surprised how good it was. Of course there were some handling issues, which was not ideal, but we just had to try to live with it and we still had pretty OK speed."
Lotus' trackside operations manager Alan Permane calculated that the damage cost Raikkonen about one-quarter of a second per lap. Given it happened with 40 laps to go, that was ten seconds in all -- precisely the margin behind the race winner.
"Without the poor start and without the incident for Kimi, then we definitely would have fought for a win today," team principal Eric Boullier said. "Kimi showed once more why he's one of the very best drivers in the world by being one of the fastest on track despite sustaining damage to his car."