With Kimi Räikkönen announcing his decision to retire at the end of the ongoing 2021 season, Formula One will be losing one of its most interesting and loved drivers.
Known for his terse radio messages and dislike of media and PR activities, it is quite ironical that every action Räikkönen does is gold dust for social media content creators. Even though people see him as a media-shy, a private driver, what the world overlooks is a passionate racing driver who is out there following his dreams. A lot of the drivers today, especially the younger ones, are very careful about the way they present themselves and also about their social media presence. The drivers of the past also used to be very tight-lipped and had a corporate-like functionality outside the car.
Räikkönen, though, didn’t care at all about any of this. He would not answer a question if he didn’t like it and has come to be known to call things as he sees them. He’s out there to race and that’s what he does.
Following would be a prime example of this: even when he was paid off by Ferrari at the end of the 2009 season, Räikkönen took two years off from Formula One and did rallying and participated in NASCAR. For him, the reason was very clear – he loved racing and he would do just that. Nothing else mattered.
When Räikkönen started with Sauber in 2001, he didn’t have enough races under his belt in the junior categories to get a Super License, but on the word of his team boss, Peter Sauber, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) gave him the Super License.
The result? The rookie, in his debut race, qualified 13th and finished a stunning sixth that helped him score a point.
Räikkönen is one of those few drivers who doesn’t care about the car setup; the Finn has an unique talent of getting into any car and driving it fast. In fact, it was this talent that led to his compatriot, Mika Häkkinen, advising McLaren team boss, Ron Dennis, to sign the youngster from Sauber in 2002. A third-place finish on his debut did no harm to his growing reputation.
Also Read – Richest Formula 1 Drivers in History
Even though he has performed exceptionally well at the highest level, Räikkönen has always been a carefree character who doesn’t care about what the world thinks of him. Half an hour before his Formula One debut with Sauber, Räikkönen was asleep; it’s an activity the Finn did throughout his younger years, although due to scheduling changes, he’s had to skip it in his later years.
The Finn is also notorious for his blunt radio messages. Two years after being away from Formula One, when Räikkönen returned with Lotus, he probably had the most iconic radio message of all time. At the Abu Dhabi race that season, Räikkönen snapped at his engineer.
“Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!”
In the end, though, he did know what he was doing, as he went on to win that race.
In 2006, during the Monaco Grand Prix, when Räikkönen’s heat shield blew, instead of going back to his garage, he walked straight off to his yacht.
A few years later, when he was with Ferrari in Malaysia, when the race was suspended, Räikkönen was found roaming around the garage in his shorts having an ice cream.
And most recently, Räikkönen’s first words after his 2018 US Grand Prix were: “Yeah, thank you.”
There will never be anyone like Kimi.
Such antics often overshadow the driver Räikkönen has been. People have built a cult persona of the Iceman which has a life of its own today. But what a lot of people don’t see is that the Finn is one of the finest racers in the sport and his world championship along with 21 victories is testament to that.
The Finn came to Formula One to race and that is the only thing that mattered to him. Räikkönen raced the likes of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and beat them all. His win at Spa in 2004, passing Schumacher, was nothing short of excellence, while his ‘17th to first’ at Suzuka in 2005 is stuff of legends. His determination and comeback in the 2007 season showed his will to fight and gave him that world championship crown that he had been waiting for. And his win at Texas in 2018 proved that Räikkönen, on his day, was untouchable.
Also Read – The Return of Fernando Alonso
Räikkönen retires as the last Ferrari world champion and as one of the greats of the sport. What sets him apart from the rest is his longevity in the sport, having been able to compete at the highest level for two decades. This is not only due to his exceptional skill and talent, but also his passion, his undying love for racing.
Räikkönen has maintained that he is in the sport just because he enjoys and loves it, which is quite a statement in today’s world from a professional sportsman. In an age where everyone has goals and targets set which they are out to achieve and have parameters to live by, Räikkönen has been out there to do something he loves. Period. Nothing else.
As Formula One says goodbye to its most experienced driver, the sport will also lose one of its most loved personalities. Thank you, Kimi Räikkönen, for everything you have done on the track, but more importantly, thank you for making an entire generation fall in love with the sport simply by being yourself.
100% real. Nothing else. That is Kimi Räikkönen.