Amid the plan to drastically change multiple elements of F1 for 2021, some drivers – including five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton – have called for the physical challenge to be increased.
This has led to Romain Grosjean to compare the ease of driving a grand prix in 2019 to the strain of racing karts, a claim that was emotionally countered by Max Verstappen.
Raikkonen said: “Is it harder now or less hard? It’s impossible to say. When you start thinking 10 years back the memory plays games and you can’t [remember properly].
“Maybe it’s not the same. If you asked me 10 years ago I’d say ‘it’s OK’ because it’s all about how you get used to it.
“When you come after the winter and you drive, you see whether it’s hard or not because your neck is basically done after 20 laps and it feels awful.
“But the second test, you have a little bit of pain here and there and then you get used to it. It’s like any sport you do, you get used to what you do and it doesn’t feel hard.”
Part of Hamilton’s argument was that he perceives the challenge to have been reduced for teenage rookies in F1.
Raikkonen made his grand prix debut in 2001 as a 21-year-old, straight out of Formula Renault.
He has driven various versions of F1 machinery since then, starting with V10-engined cars through to V8s and now V6 turbo-hybrids, and competed in races with different rules from refuelling to no tyre changes during a grand prix.
“I don’t think it felt any different in the earlier days,” said Raikkonen. “Some races are harder than others. In those days we did a lot of testing and then you just get used to more.
“But if you are driving it’s always going to be hard to go fast and be on the limit. Sometimes it feels more easy. I remember sometimes when we had a very good car and everything is absolutely perfect, it feels like nothing.
“You drive easily and the laptime is great, everything is great, and it feels a bit too easy. But other times it’s a painful experience when you have to fight.”
One suggestion to make the current cars harder to drive, albeit not one thought to be under serious consideration, is to reduce the assistance of power steering.
However, Raikkonen said he was able to get used that to in 2001 when he had “no power in myself compared to what I have now”.
“The first Sauber I drove in testing in Mugello had zero power steering,” said Raikkonen. “In 2001, we got it at Monza, so already half a year [had been completed] without power steering. It’s about doing what you have to do.”