In the glamorous world of Formula One, rivalries forged on paper translate on to heated on-track battles. The likes of Senna and Prost, Hunt and Lauda, followed by Schumacher and Hakkinen have raged with fury and lifted the most ecstatic competition in the world of motorsport.
But, in an age where Hamilton and Rosberg are commanding headlines and where the dynamics of the sport are changing with ringing cash registers and by Bernie’s mood swings, established names like Alonso and Button and rising stars like Verstappen and Sainz Jr. are all fighting.
It is so because a certain Kimi Raikkonen is still out there.
The Ferrari driver, who is said to be competing in his last season, is the oldest driver on the grid and quite possibly, still one of the fastest.
The icon of cool: can he make it count?
Notoriously shy of the media, Raikkonen’s legend expands every time the image of Formula One contracts. With F1 finding itself at an interesting cusp of rising competition from other international sports being in an age where drivers’ egos exploit every inch of the turf war on zigzagging circuits, Kimi’s understated appeal charms fans and critics alike.
This year there will be talks of Alonso’s fiery persona aiming to prop up the miserable McLaren-Honda’s fortunes, with the team also promising improvement.
One is sure that four time world champion Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to give Mercedes’ Rosberg and Hamilton a run for their money.
But despite such interesting precursors to the pinnacle of motorsport, many eyes will be on Kimi Raikkonen.
Not a spectacular 2015, but signaling a comeback
Bouncing back to form in the last season, 2015 may not have seen the very best from the Finnish racing star but gave fans a slice of why he’s so good behind the wheel. Having endured possibly the worst ever F1 season in 2014, where the Ferrari pairing of Alonso and Raikkonen produced a dampener, as opposed to what the world thought would stoke the character of the sport given the “Fire and Ice” pairing, the Finn scored only 55 points to Alonso’s 161.
“The front doesn’t work too well,” he had said, citing adjustment problems with the front end of his Ferrari. But bouncing back is probably just one of Kimi’s maverick moves.
Just a year later, partnering Vettel for 2015, a season where the Italian team followed Mercedes quite like the Italian Mafia trails its naysayers, Raikkonen’s speedy elegance helped put Ferrari at the front of the pack on many occasions.
He was again outscored by his partner, but there was a resurgence in Raikkonen’s character that many of his critics would be glad to forget.
Complaints about usual laziness in qualifying, especially his poor showing at Monza (Italian Grand Prix) were put to rest following the disastrous start at the home of Ferrari. Since then, Raikkonen’s qualifying save for Mexico where he did not qualify (ditto for race result) have read, Russia- 5, Brazil- 5, USA- 8, Singapore- 3 and Abu Dhabi 3.
Of course, standing 3rd on the podium twice at the night safari of Singapore and at the electrifyingly beautiful Abu Dhabi may not be Kimi’s idea of job well done. But while it helped Ferrari make most of the races where Rosberg-Lewis show dominated, his superb earning of setting 2 fastest laps at Canada and Bahrain, signaled the intent of the Iceman.
It was Kimi who kept his calm and nearly did Lewis’ in the desert heat of the Sakhir circuit, standing 2nd on the podium, his best finish in 2015.
Some say he’s a loose wheel nut
If you ever fancy making the most of a dull day, just hear the Iceman take on the media. Youtube is rife with ‘funny iceman’ videos where, despite the best attempts made by international press to extract verbose answers from the laidback Finn, his one word retorts splash a layer of cool that you would experience on a happy go lucky day spent on holiday.
There are some who like the plain-speaking, attention-seeking triple world champion Hamilton and former double world champion Alonso, who is baldly honest.
Then, there are some who don’t mind the compliments coming in. Picture Rosberg, Bottas and Massa. And then there are those who are adjudged the ‘most popular driver of them all’, caring a darn to all the attention which refuses to buckle down.
Kimi Raikkonen, the champagne-guzzling star of the F1 podium is in the last league.