As we all get pumped up about F1 testing and this year’s stellar line-up in the top few teams, let’s spare a thought for the World Champion who got away – Kimi Raikkonen.
Squeezed out of Ferrari, admittedly with a nice parting gift in his bank account, Kimi preferred the jump into the world of rallying to any possible alternatives in F1. His fulltime WRC career gets under way in Sweden today.
I spoke to him about the transition a few weeks ago, and you may have read the resulting feature in Autosport. He had no reason to make himself available during his winter break – there was no team or sponsor telling him to do so – but purely as a favour he found the time to call me back, and later even sent an email asking to see the story. And no, he didn’t request any changes!
I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time with Kimi away from the track, and I would always argue that contrary to popular belief, he is one of the most interesting drivers you could meet. He is great fun to be with, and is also a decent human being. Many of his rivals, at least those who occasionally hang out with him, would agree with me. Just ask Pedro de la Rosa, his former McLaren team mate. You couldn’t meet two drivers with such different public personas, and yet Pedro regards Kimi as one his closest pals in the sport.
I didn’t have space to include everything Kimi said in that Autosport interview, but with the WRC about to kick off it seemed like a good time to return to the recording and scoop up the best outtakes for your consumption. One thing he has certainly done right is get himself the best possible equipment in the form of the Citroen, which is a huge step up from the Abarth he played around with last year.
“The only option for me was in rallies, and I wanted to have at least a competitive car,” he told me. “The Fiat was definitely not a good car, everybody knows it, so if I go there I want to have a good team and good car. So at least I give myself a chance if I learn quickly and get it right I have a good car and team behind me.”
There’s no doubt that he’s deadly serious about getting decent results, and podium finishes are his target. “That’s why I want to have a good car, because in the end I want to do my best and try to get as high up as I can. I have no interest to go there and just drive around, it’s definitely to try to get good results.”
When I asked what type of surface he expected to do better on, he had no doubts about where he would feel most at home.
“I would say the tarmac should be the easiest one, I did a little bit with my Fiat on asphalt. For sure you can read the road more easily just because you’ve done so much on tarmac in F1, it gives you a better feeling. Snow is the most difficult thing. I’ve done most of my rallying in the snow, but it’s still the most challenging thing.
“You’re doing some places 200 between the trees and for sure it’s different than F1, but that’s part of the whole sport. You can get hurt, so you’d better stay on the road!
“I need a lot of time in the car, and on rallies. Like I said it’s the most difficult thing I have done in my career so far, the biggest challenge. But I enjoy it and it’s good fun, it’s a new thing.”
This year of course he’ll be watching F1 from afar. Having given up the chance to drive the McLaren, he’ll certainly keep an eye on how Jenson Button, the man who eventually took the seat, will perform: “For sure it’s interesting. I’m pretty sure that Lewis will beat him.”
He saved his best answer for when I asked whether he was concerned about being forgotten by F1. “I don’t really stress much about those things.”
Kimi, I think we’d figured that one out…
10 responses to “Kimi Raikkonen starts his new life”
Nice article Adam, and good to see again one of the myths dispelled regarding Raikkonens persona.
As much as i’m enjoying his so far limited Rally performances i’d love to see him back in F1 next year, he still has an awful lot to offer.
Nice write up….. Glad to hear you break down some Kimi stereotypes….. I would not be surprised to see some F1 drivers turn up at Rally’s to watch Kimi as well as Kimi turn up at an F1 race or two….
About his personality. I’m Finnish and I understand what he’s doing. I mean the way he behaves. It’s been at times pretty frustrating to try and educate foreigners about it – they don’t seem to be getting it like at all. That’s fine in fact – if you don’t get his personality then I forgive you – you likely lack the cultural experience to understand him. But what I don’t forgive you is if you start putting him down based on his personality – which you did not understand. I appreciate Kimi’s style more than I appreciate the style of the Southern Europeans – but I am not putting them down for that. As an example, Fernando Alonso is still a great racing driver even if his behavioural models are vastly different to mine, like they are. I would hope more people would appreciate the different cultures and would develop more understanding of different cultures and personalities. I don’t like to see a racing driver’s racing achievements be put down based on his personality no matter who is the target.
Adam, thank you very much for this 🙂
Part of me hopes that Kimi will return to F1, yet the other part also hopes he stays true to his dream of becoming a rally champion. And if he were to chase it, he needs to stay put in WRC and build up the experience.
Nonetheless, he’s an extraordinary talent, in whichever category, as well as a human being in the most simplest yet adoring way which explains why he has such a huge fanbase from ALL over the world 🙂
thanks adam!this article makes me smile…i’m still in the process of understanding rally & i’m glad to see kimi more relax & enjoying the sport, i’m still hoping though for him to go back to F1..he can still win another wdc 🙂
Thanks for a great article. It is always good to hear a bit more about the real Kimi. He is often just misunderstood. I have often felt that some F1 journalist have been way to hard and critical on him.
But his move to WRC is very exciting, it is not often that a top driver completely changes his genre. I am sure a lot of people will be following Kimi in WRC. I will be one of those, WRC has a really exciting season ahead.
I dont know if anyone has noticed, but for a person who doesn’t like the spotlight and PR, Kimi has been doing more PR then he has ever done in his career this past month! 🙂
Let the debate begin!
Kimi is Kimi. The Scandinavians and the finns in particular prefer doing and let the talking, shouting, boasting and all that crap to southern population. Consider this: poor, 5 million population has generated so many world champions. Maybe we can not speak bull shit but we can listen and read. And above all, we understand what we read and hear.
Well I am in no way near finnish nor european, in fact I am from a little island in the caribbean, but I have always understood Kimi. He’s one of the best talents I’ve ever seen and, to me, he’s got a charming personality too.
I hope he does really great in rallies (I know he will) and I can tell those Ferrari guys that they don’t really know what they’re missing. And the really cool thing is that Kimi really doesn’t care about them at all.
Kimi is one of the best pilots in F1 history and, to me, waaaaay much better than Alonso.
He seems to be really happy now with the wind on his face and his hair on fire.
GREAT blog Adam! It’s a pleasure reading your posts, that are not biased or negative in any way.
Keep up your excellent perspective.!