Kimi Raikkonen is a lot more clever than he sometimes lets on. It’s all part of “The Iceman’s” master plan.
Raikkonen knows how the game is played. If he gives uninteresting answers to questions, then he knows that fewer journalists will ask for interviews. It’s a win in Raikkonen’s world if he isn’t called on to do as much media work as other drivers who feel the need to be more helpful. Raikkonen has always been like that, shrugging his shoulders, answering “Yes” or “No” or simply saying “That’s motor racing.”
While the public persona of The Iceman appeals to the fans, he is not as reserved as he appears to be when he is away from the F1 world—or so they say. The reality is that he just doesn’t like the hassle one gets from being famous, and he has developed ways to avoid it. You can stand next to him in a queue in an airport, and you wouldn’t notice him.
Amid all the hullabaloo surrounding Lewis Hamilton approaching Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula 1 Grand Prix victories, the Russian Grand Prix weekend will mark—if all goes to plan—Raikkonen’s 322nd race start in Formula 1. This will equal the record set by Rubens Barrichello in 2011 when the Brazilian finally departed F1. It is a record that Barrichello took in Turkey in 2008 when he passed the evergreen Riccardo Patrese’s 257 starts, a record that had stood since 1993.
Raikkonen, who turn 41 next month, started his F1 career way back in 2001 when Peter Sauber took a risk on the virtually unknown 21-year-old Finn who had competed in only 23 car races when he made his F1 debut. It was a decision that would be very significant for Sauber because his primary supporter at the time and the majority shareholder in his team was Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull. Mateschitz didn’t want Raikkonen, and believed that the Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi was going to be the next big thing.
Sauber refused to agree and, as a result, Mateschitz decided that their alliance should end. He sold his Sauber shares to Credit Suisse and began plans to start his own F1 team.
The truth is that Sauber was right. Raikkonen was a bit special. He scored a point for sixth place on his debut at Albert Park in Melbourne in 2001, and by the end of that season McLaren had swooped in and signed him for 2002. In 2003, he scored his first Grand Prix victory and with no fewer than seven second places and was runner-up in the World Championship to Michael Schumacher. Raikkonen repeated this achievement in 2005 behind Fernando Alonso.
Raikkonen joined Ferrari in 2007 and won the World Championship at his first attempt in a red car. He was the last Ferrari World Champion. During his career he has collected 103 podiums and 21 race victories but he has never been enamored by the publicity side and the politics of the business. He likes the simple pleasures of competition and gets a lot of enjoyment out of his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna IceOne team which competes in the FIM Motocross World Championship.
Raikkonen left F1 in 2010 and 2011 in order to follow his ambition to become a professional rally driver. He competed in the World Rally Championship, but it was hard going and his best result was fifth, which was still impressive for a newcomer against the best in the world. During his time away from F1 he also did one-off races in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“I don’t care if it’s 20 or 20,000. It doesn’t make a difference.”
Raikkonen says he doesn’t cares about the record for F1 races that will be all his in due time.
“I’ve never chased any number,” Raikkonen says. “I don’t care if it’s 20 or 20,000. It doesn’t make a difference.”
He is only in Formula 1 because he likes driving F1 cars and wants to keep doing it.
“And when I don’t feel it anymore, then I stop,” he says.
It is the same with age. It is just a number.
“I think as long as you feel you are capable of doing what you expect to from yourself, it is just a number,” he said.
In recent weeks, Raikkonen has been getting headlines again. In Spa, he beat both factory Ferrari drivers to be the highest-placed Ferrari-engined finisher, albeit in 12th place. And then in Mugello he scored his first points of the year with ninth place. He has been ahead of his Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi in recent weeks.
Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo contract comes to an end this year but he says that is not something he is worrying about at the moment.
“The bigger picture is much more important for me,” he says. “First of all comes the family, the kids are getting bigger, this year I’ve been able to be more home, which is great and I think that’s what makes me decide to continue racing or not. There’s going to be a point when I’ll want to be home and do other things. But not yet.”
It may be that Alfa Romeo will move quickly, although it is a buyer’s market when it comes to drivers. Ferrari is very keen to see Mick Schumacher in F1, and he is currently leading the Formula 2 championship. Schumacher has been consistent but others have won more, and there is no guarantee that Schumacher will win the title. Signing him now would make sense because things could get really complicated if he is beaten to the title by one of the other Ferrari Academy drivers (both Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman are in the running for the title).
And if the Alfa Romeo team takes on a rookie—which is almost certain to happen, one way or another—it makes sense to have an experienced driver alongside to help the new driver find his feet. Raikkonen is in the right place to do that.
So it looks like Raikkonen could be with us for yet another year, at least.
If that’s what he wants.
Formula 1 300 Start Club
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