Kimi Raikkonen: The quintessential Iceman
Known to be a man of few words, here's a look at what makes the monosyllabic Finn such a popular driver..
Kimi Raikkonen is one of the most recognisable figures on the F1 paddock. Having raced for more than a decade, he is one of the most experienced drivers racing today. The Finn, who is known to be extremely popular with the F1 fans, was unsurprisingly voted as F1’s most popular driver a few years back. Let’s take a look at his storied F1 career to see just what makes him so loved and popular among F1 fanatics.
Kimi Raikkonen, without a doubt, is one of the most naturally gifted drivers to have raced in Formula 1. When he gets a car to his liking, there’s absolutely no one who can beat him. His stint with McLaren was a testimony to that. Despite McLaren’s reliability issues that many times saw him retire from a potentially winnable position, Kimi challenged for the title in 2003 and 2005.
2003 would be a year of number of ‘firsts’ for Kimi. A fantastic drive at Sepang got him a well deserved first win. His first pole would come later, at the Nurburgring. Though he won only one race, he got on the podium a further nine times as his McLaren proved to be a worthy competitor to Schumacher and his Ferrari.
Raikkonen’s immense talent was on full display over the course of the season; none more so than at Austria, where he held off the experienced Rubens Barrichello to claim 2nd place. And although he would lose the Championship to the German by a mere two points, it clearly established him as a future World Championship.
2005 would again see Raikkonen and McLaren finish second best in the Championship. Despite being quickest on the grid, the reliability issues again dogged the Finn’s season. Raikkonen would retire three times while leading the race including a heartbreaking suspension failure on the very last lap at the Nurburgring.
His win at Suzuka was arguably the best race of the decade as it again gave a glimpse of Kimi’s raw talent. Starting from 17th, Kimi overtook every car in front of him until he was behind Fisichella with a few laps to go. On the very last lap, with Fisichella protecting the inside line, Kimi went round the outside and pulled off a gutsy manoeuvre to win the race.
Although Kimi didn’t win the championship with McLaren, he created a reputation for being one of the quickest racers on the grid. Stirling Moss, one of the most respected F1 drivers and commentators would go on to say, “Quite frankly, Kimi Raikkonen is the fastest driver in the world”.
Cool as a cucumber
When most drivers find it extremely difficult to control their nerves before a Grand Prix, Kimi is astonishingly cool before a race. He shows no signs of any nerves and goes about his business in a very calm fashion. Before his very first race in F1, Kimi was found to be sleeping 30 minutes before the start!
On another occasion, during the Malaysian GP of 2009, when the race was stopped due to heavy rain, the big screen caught Kimi eating an ice cream! Another such incident saw him straight on his yacht after retiring from the lead of the Monaco GP in 2006. His super-cool demeanour has won him many faithful admirers.
The most quotable F1 driver
Though the Finn is well known for his dislike of interviews, he is Formula 1’s most quotable driver. Unlike other drivers, Kimi is extremely frank and doesn’t care about what others think. Some of his well-known quotes include
Interviewer: “What kind of a relationship do you have with Peter Sauber?”
Kimi: “He is my boss.”
Interviewer: “The helmet has a special meaning for many drivers. How important is it to you?”
Kimi: “It protects my head.”
Interviewer:”Do you have any special rituals when the helmet is concerned like many have?”
Kimi: “I wipe it so that I can see better.”
Martin Brundle: “Kimi, you missed the presentation by Pele.”
Martin: “Will you get over it?”
Kimi: “Yeah. I was having a s**t.”
Kimi Raikkonen’s radio messages are always worth a listen irrespective of the position he’s in. Right from his famous “Leave me Alone! I know what I’m doing” message at the Abu Dhabi GP of 2012 to his confusion over the blue flags in Australia 2012 to his more recent “Get that McLaren out of the way!”, Kimi’s radio messages have always been of keen interest for racing fans. And rarely does Kimi disappoint them.
Kimi Raikkonen, as of today, is Ferrari’s last World Champion. Raikkonen won the title in his very first season with the team in 2007. Despite being behind Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton for most of the season, an exceptional second half of the season from Raikkonen and Ferrari brought them right back into contention.
Heading into the final round in Brazil, Hamilton held a 7-point lead over Raikkonen and a 4-point lead over Alonso. The race went just about perfectly for Raikkonen as he took the chequered flag. Hamilton would finish 7th and Alonso 3rd. The results ensured Raikkonen had won the championship by a single point from both Hamilton and Alonso. The fact that Raikkonen was able to overturn a 17-point deficit to Hamilton in just two races made it one of the most exciting seasons in F1 history.
Along with his sheer pace in a race car, these are some qualities that make Kimi Raikkonen one of the most interesting personalities on the grid. With Ferrari having extended his contract until the end of 2017, it will give his loyal fans an opportunity to see him race for one more year and possibly even win one more title.