F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen and MotoGP rider Dani Pedrosa have a lot in common and are actually more similar than meets the eye:
Both are economical with their words, yet they are also known for thought-provoking, insightful interviews once in a while.
Both are allergic to bullshit, but can play the diplomat/mediator when needed.
Both enjoy tightknit and incredibly loyal fanbases, which go to great lengths to travel with them around the world and to passionately defend their racing heroes on social media.
Both have been overshadowed by their prodigious, more extroverted teammates.
Both have experienced major criticism for lackluster on-track performances, and for hogging seats that many believe should have been relinquished to younger, hungrier racers years ago.
Both are unadulterated, absolute racers, who prefer to keep their heads down and prove their worth on the track.
I love and admire them and as much as I wish that they can go on racing forever, the reality is that they are both facing a daunting, make-or-break year this 2018.
Raikkonen is believed to be on a one year contract with Ferrari, which expires at the end of this season. He is currently the oldest driver on the F1 grid and has not won a race since 2013. Pedrosa, who has been with Repsol Honda for all his MotoGP premier class career, has not renewed his contract yet. He is the most high-profile rider who has not won a MotoGP title so far.
Plenty of F1 drivers and MotoGP riders are already being linked to their seats. The season has barely started but the pressure is undoubtedly on Kimi and Dani not just to perform but to perform exceedingly well.
Are they merely getting by because of their reputations? Are they being kept simply to play wingmen and to keep their teammates placated? Are they past the point of being Champion-material? Are they wasting their time with teams that may not have their best interests at heart? Think of a criticism and chances are, that has been hurled at those two multiple times already.
Forget their rivals. 2018 is the year of Raikkonen and Pedrosa.
This is their year to step up.
This is their year to overcome the pesky “Number 2” label.
This is their year to prove their critics wrong.
This is their year. But, they’ll have to work damn hard for it. No excuses, no margin for error, no half-heartedness allowed.
In an ideal world, pure talent will keep them in F1 and MotoGP, and make them shoo-in title contenders, but the reality is that it takes a hell of a lot more than that. Luck, unwavering team support and an almost-obsessive focus to win also come into play in the proverbial game of thrones: racing edition.
It is a Herculean task, which is entirely up to Kimi and Dani to overcome. The odds against them are overwhelming, their rivals are fierce and ruthless, but only Kimi and Dani can decide how to ultimately take control of their stories.
Admittedly, I am equal parts terrified and excited to see how their seasons will pan out. I have become way too emotionally-invested in their racing careers and there’s simply no turning back.
And so I implore my fellow Kimi and Dani fans not to take this season for granted, by any means. Savor every race. Appreciate what they bring to their respective grids. Love them or loathe them, you have to recognize the fact that both are incredible racers who changed racing history in their own way. We don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone, and all that.
My gut is telling me this is going to be–for lack of a better phrase–one interesting year.
(Should Kimi stay in Ferrari for one more year? Should Dani renew his Honda contract or move on to another team? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box or tweet me @bouncebckbltrx)