More than 3000 days separated the Finn’s last pole from his qualifying triumph at Monaco on Saturday.
“Kimi has woken up,” F1 legend and Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda told the German broadcaster RTL.
Lauda said he sensed something different about the 37-year-old in the hours before he secured pole for Ferrari.
“He happened to be walking next to me and suddenly he hugged me, which he has never done before, and said ‘Niki, how are you?’
“I didn’t know, but he said he had become a father for the second time. I told him about my children too and it was a very pleasant conversation,” Lauda added.
“I thought ‘This guy is in a good way’, and if that is correct, then the accelerator pedal is correct. And now he has a performance that no one expected.”
However, right behind Raikkonen on Sunday’s grid is his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, who has a perfect opportunity to take a big points bite out of his title rival Lewis Hamilton.
So will there be team orders?
“As long as his car works, he will not let Sebastian go. Kimi wants to win,” Lauda predicted.
Raikkonen says that sort of approach will be nothing new.
“I don’t know why people expect that there will be something different to how it’s been the last two years. Just trying to make a stupid story out of nothing,” he said.