Recently retired F1 driver Sebastian Vettel has raced with and against some extraordinary drivers during his illustrious career.
With names including the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, Vettel agreed that he was blessed to have shared the track with such talented racers.
Vettel was no slouch behind the wheels himself, having won the world championship four times himself, that too in successive years at Red Bull.
Vettel felt that judging another driver is easiest when they are both in the same car, and he felt that the pure raw speed that he saw from Kimi Raikkonen while at Ferrari was something to behold.
Without any hesitation, he named Kimi as the fastest driver and the greatest natural talent he ever competed against in F1.
“I think Kimi is actually the biggest natural talent I’ve come across, ever,” Vettel said.
“Just in terms of raw speed, I think. It shows in the car, obviously, but it shows also in any other form of car.
“If there was a discipline of switching cars, every day, after 10 days Kimi will be lapping everybody else, just because he’s just a natural.
“It doesn’t take time [for him] to adapt to the car, to what the car requires. You give him a steering wheel and he knows what to do.
“Sometimes you feel it’s unfair, you need to get used to [it] first and get an idea of the track or the conditions, and for him it’s just [instant].”
With Raikkonen driving with blazing speeds, it is possible for a little friction between teammates.
We have all seen how that played out between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes.
However, Vettel said that Kimi’s natural ability never had any impact on their relationship.
“I think with him, I probably had the best relationship out of all the teammates I had, because he was just so straightforward,” Vettel said.
“There was never an argument if we crashed into each other. We talked about it; we discussed what happened, maybe we laughed about it, it was my mistake, it was his mistake.
“But then there was never a question that anything could sort of shake up or destabilise the… I don’t want to say bond, but the relationship that we had.
“When I came to the team, I remember he was so respectful.
“From the day I walked in, he was looking into my eyes, where with other drivers I felt, ‘Okay, I’m shaking hands and I’m saying hello, but actually the guy is not present, he’s not here’.
“So, with people, I think Kimi’s pretty exceptional.”